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Canadians warming to Michael Ignatieff - a little

While support for all parties has changed little in the opening days of the 2011 campaign, Michael Ignatieff may be starting to catch some voters' ears.

A rolling poll conducted for the Globe and Mail and CTV by Nanos Research shows a tentative improvement in the Liberal Leader's typically dismal Leadership Index Score, a compendium of responses measuring voter attitudes toward trust, competence, and vision among the party leaders.

Although Mr. Ignatieff still trails far behind Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, who scored 89.5 on the most recent survey, Mr. Ignatieff's score of 46.7 per cent is an improvement on previous findings.

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It places him for once above NDP Leader Jack Layton, whose score dropped sharply to 43.6.

It is far too early to tell if the latest numbers, measuring voter responses on March 29, are a blip or the beginning of a trend.

"It's significant if it continues," pollster Nik Nanos said. Leadership scores, he said, are a leading indicator of momentum. "When a leader's numbers start going up or down, there's usually movement in the poll after that."

The coming days will tell whether the Liberal message of investments in health, education and pensions - paid for by increased corporate taxes - is getting through to voters, or whether the uptick was a brief aberration.

Overall, the opening days of the campaign have had little impact on voter attitudes toward any of the parties.

Nationally, the Conservatives are in front with 38.4 per cent. The Liberals are 10 points behind at 28.7 per cent, followed by the NDP at 19.6 per cent, the Bloc Québécois at 9.1 per cent and the Greens at 4.1 per cent.

These numbers are essentially unchanged from the previous Nanos poll conducted in mid-March, and vary little from the results of the 2008 general election.

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This is the first of what will be daily poll numbers from Nanos Research. Each day of results is based on a three-day random telephone sample of 1,200 Canadians covering the previous three days (400 interviews a night).

Mr. Nanos said the main benefit of nightly tracking is its ability to catch trends in order to assess the direction of the campaign.

Each night, a new group of 400 interviews is added to the sample and the oldest group of 400 is dropped, producing a rolling average.

Nanos reports that its margin of accuracy for a survey of 1,200 respondents is plus or minus 2.8 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

The Nanos survey also shows no shift in what matters most to voters in this election campaign. The state of the nation's health-care system continues to be the number-one concern, with jobs and the economy a strong second, followed - distantly - by education, the environment and taxes.

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About the Authors

John Ibbitson started at The Globe in 1999 and has been Queen's Park columnist and Ottawa political affairs correspondent.Most recently, he was a correspondent and columnist in Washington, where he wrote Open and Shut: Why America has Barack Obama and Canada has Stephen Harper. He returned to Ottawa as bureau chief in 2009. More

Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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