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Competing polls put both McGuinty and Hudak on top ahead of debate Add to ...

Dalton McGuinty is winning and losing – and it’s the same for Tim Hudak, according to two new polls.

Both surveys were released in the lead up to Ontario leaders debate Tuesday, on which the provincial election campaign could hinge.

One poll has the Liberal Leader up by four points and the other has the Progressive Conservative chief leading by the same number.

Ultimately, the polls show the race is too close to call. Tuesday night’s televised showdown could be what finally decides the winner and loser, with Ontario voters casting their ballots next Thursday.

EKOS Research gives McGuinty’s Liberals 34.9 per cent support compared to 31.4 per cent for Mr. Hudak and his team. Andrea Horwath’s NDP is at 24.7 per cent .

The Abacus Data poll, meanwhile, shows Mr. Hudak with 37 per cent support compared to 33 per cent for Mr. McGuinty and 23 per cent for Ms. Horwath.

There has been much controversy about polling during the Ontario election campaign. Darrell Bricker and John Wright of Ipsos Reid recently criticized pollsters for their wildly different polling methods and interpretation and then they took the media to task for publishing them. They argued their colleagues had become “hucksters selling methodological snake oil” and that reporters were promiscuous in their reporting of polls.

Earlier Ontario election polls had shown huge differences in results. These two surveys, however, are not too far apart, with the exception of the Progressive Conservative number.

Many pundits and strategists are waiting for the results of the debate Tuesday night for a more accurate picture of where Ontario voters are heading. EKOS pollster Frank Graves, however, is not among them.

He dives right into the fray in the analysis accompanying his firm’s poll. “The presence of a strong Conservative majority [federally] appears to make the Ontario voter more likely to vote non-Progressive Conservative,” he writes

He adds that the negative consequences of the federal Tory majority on the provincial PCs are most felt in the Toronto area. Additionally, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s quip this summer about a Tory “trifecta” at city hall (under right-wing populist Mayor Rob Ford), Queen’s Park and Ottawa “has had a modest chilling impact on Hudak’s prospects.”

Abacus pollster David Coletto, meanwhile, has argued the Tories have the most committed voters in the province.

Both pollsters measured how Ontarians will vote by gender.

EKOS found that 35.7 per cent of men support the Liberals compared to 35.1 per cent for the Tories and 20.3 per cent for the NDP. Abacus, however, discovered that 33 per cent of men would vote Liberal compared to 40 per cent for the PCs and 19 per cent for New Democrats.

When it comes to women, EKOS found that 34 per cent support Mr. McGuinty compared to 27.8 per cent for Mr. Hudak and 28.9 per cent for Ms. Horwat. The Abacus poll shows 32 per cent of women supporting the Liberals compared to 34 per cent for the Tories and 27 per cent for the NDP.

The EKOS poll of 1,970 was conducted between Sept. 21 and 25. It was conducted using interactive-voice-response technology, where respondents use their phone keypads to give their answers, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The Abacus survey of 1,201 respondents was conducted between Sept. 23 and 25. Conducted online, it has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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