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The Globe and Mail

Regional poll numbers could 'turn over a lot of seats' for Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper pours pints of beer at the Red Stag tavern during a campaign stop in Halifax, Thursday March 31, 2011.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

This week's surprise jump in support for the Liberals - at the expense of the NDP - has largely held for a second night in a row as nightly tracking by Nanos Research for the Globe and Mail and CTV shows little change in the national numbers.

Yet a closer look at the regional numbers shows the Conservatives have plenty of reason for optimism. Strong support in Ontario and British Columbia may just be enough to win Stephen Harper the majority he says his party needs.

"At 39 per cent support, they're close to a majority," pollster Nik Nanos said.

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The Conservatives are in front with 39.4 per cent (up from 39.1 per cent the day before), followed by the Liberals at 31.7 per cent (down a point from 32.7 per cent), the Bloc Quebecois at 8.5 per cent (from 8.7 per cent), the NDP at 16.1 per cent (from 15.9 per cent) and the Greens at 4.4 per cent (up from 3.7 per cent).

The results are based on a rolling three day survey of 1,200 Canadians from March 29-31.

The early days of Mr. Harper's tour has made no secret of the fact that the party is hoping to win new seats in Ontario - particularly the suburban ridings of the Greater Toronto Area.

The regional support numbers by Nanos Research appear to show those efforts are paying off. Support for the Conservatives in Ontario is higher now (47.2 per cent) than it was when Nanos Research polled Canadians on March 15, before the campaign began. At that time, Conservatives had 43.2 per cent support in Ontario.

The Liberal support in the province is holding steady at about 32.7 per cent, while NDP support is on a downward trend, sitting at 15.8 per cent. The Greens are at 4.2 per cent.

It is rare for the Conservatives to enjoy a 15 point lead in Ontario. Mr. Nanos said if that support holds, it will make a big difference in the campaign.

"It's going to turn over a lot of seats," he said.

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In British Columbia, another province with several tight races that could have a major impact on Election Day, Conservatives enjoy a 10 point lead over the Liberals. Conservative support is at 40.1 per cent support in B.C., followed by the Liberals at 29.7 per cent and the NDP at 20.4 per cent. Prior to the campaign, the NDP was polling slightly ahead of the Liberals in B.C., but Liberals have beat out the NDP in B.C. in all three of the daily Nanos Research surveys released this week.

The Green Party's campaign is almost entirely focused on getting party leader Elizabeth May elected in the Vancouver Island riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands. Regional support for the Greens in B.C. is at 9.8 per cent.

In other regional races, the Liberals enjoy a big lead in Atlantic Canada at 46.9 per cent, followed by the Conservatives at 30.6 per cent, the NDP at 19.7 per cent and the Greens at 2.9 per cent.

In Quebec, Nanos Research numbers show a downward trend in support for the Bloc (now at 35.6 per cent), and slight upward trends for the Liberals (at 26.5 per cent) and the Conservatives (at 22.1 per cent). Support for the NDP in Quebec has been largely stable since March 15 and is now at 13.6 per cent while the Greens are at two per cent.

Finally, the large Conservative lead in the Prairies continues to hold. The Tories are well in front with 51.6 per cent support, followed by the Liberals at 30 per cent, the NDP at 14.6 per cent and the Greens at 3.9 per cent.

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.

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Nanos reports that its margin of error for a survey of 1,200 respondents is plus or minus 2.8 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The margin of error increases with regional numbers, which are drawn from smaller samples.

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