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B.C. Premier Christy Clark speaks to media in Victoria, March 14, 2013.

Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press

The B.C. New Democrats have a 20-point lead on the B.C. Liberals, according to a new poll.

The results of the survey, conducted on March 18 and 19, have the Liberals below 30 per cent for the first time in an Angus Reid Public Opinion poll this year. A spokesman for the polling firm says the showing seriously complicates the party's options for gaining traction on the dominant New Democrats in the runup to the provincial election May 14.

The survey has the NDP at 48 per cent, up one point from the last poll in February, and the Liberals at 28 per cent, down three points.

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The B.C. Greens and B.C. Conservatives are tied in the poll at 11 per cent, up one point for the greens and two points for the Conservatives.

The Liberals "are in the late twenties, which is not the place to be this close to an election," said Angus Reid's Mario Canseco.

He said the bad news for the Liberals is not surprising, given the turmoil the party has experienced over a recent scandal related to outreach, using government resources, to ethnic voters.

But there are other dynamics that present problems for the Liberals and opportunities for the New Democrats.

The poll suggests that the NDP has a retention rate of 85 per cent of voters who have supported the party in past and will do so now, compared to 56 per cent for the Liberals.

Sixty-two per cent of respondents say it's time for a change of government, including 33 per cent of those who supported Gordon Campbell as Liberal leader in 2009, when the Liberals were re-elected with a majority.

Other findings in the poll suggest Green Party Leader Jane Sterk has matched Premier Christy Clark's approval rating of 27 per cent, but that NDP Leader Adrian Dix is far out in front with 47-per-cent approval ratings.

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Both Mr. Dix and Ms. Clark's approval ratings are up 4 per cent. B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins is at 18 per cent, up three points.

Mr. Dix is seen as the best premier by 31 per cent of respondents, compared to 16 per cent for Ms. Clark.

The online survey had 809 randomly selected respondents. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 per cent.

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