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Ethics issues must 'percolate' before they threaten Harper, poll suggests

Opposition parties should put the brakes on, pollster Frank Graves says. They should rethink their "impulse for an immediate election" since the numbers just aren't there for them right now.

An EKOS Research poll released late Thursday shows a seven-point gap between Stephen Harper's Conservatives and Michael Ignatieff's Liberals, suggesting a spring election race would be fought close.

The Tories are polling at 35.2 per cent support compared to 27.8 per cent for the Liberals and 14.9 per cent for the NDP. The Green Party is at 10.1 per cent and the Bloc is at 8.8 per cent.

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But the "underlying patterns of movement in the electorate" in the EKOS survey provide a cautionary tale for the Liberals, suggesting the Tories have picked up the largest number of swing voters from the Grits. NDP voters are also fairly mobile.

According to the EKOS analysis, "many potential and actual Liberal voters are relatively ambivalent about the two parties, but the Conservative Party has the larger and more attached base and there is little evidence that the Liberals have had much luck prying these votes loose."

The poll finds that the Conservatives are ahead with a more loyal and larger base.

"Most movements have been shifts back and forth across those two parties with the CPC now holding by far the lion's share of that swing group and little evidence that the Liberals will be able to shake those voter loose and back their way," Mr. Graves told The Globe.

Given that, the pollster says it would be "prudent to park" the enthusiasm for an election that seems to be emanating from the opposition parties and "hope the accountability and character issues can percolate and blend to provide a more forceful challenge than they are capable of offering based on today's poll."

EKOS also measured voter mobility and found that Canadians are far more "politically promiscuous" than Americans. Where 90 per cent of U.S. voters cast their ballots the same way in the last election, only two in three Canadians remained loyal.

In addition, the poll shows that 51.6 per cent of Canadians believe the country is going in the right direction, compared to 43.5 per cent who believe the government is going in the right direction.

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Additionally, Mr. Graves's seat projections show little change from the present Parliament. Were an election held today, the Tories would likely win 140 seats, down three from their current contingent in the Commons. The Liberals would likely increase their representation to 86 seats from 77 and the NDP would lose seven seats, dropping to a caucus of 29 from its present 36. The Bloc would likely climb to 52 seats from and there would be one independent.

The poll of 2,892 Canadians was conducted between Feb. 24 and March 8; it has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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