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Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Oct. 8, 2010.

JASON FRANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Stephen Harper's Conservatives are pulling away from Michael Ignatieff's Liberals after a summer of controversial issues in which they saw their support bleed away, a new poll suggests.

The Nanos Research survey has the Tories at 36.6 per cent - up from 33.3 per cent in September. For the first time in several months, the Conservatives have a slight marginal advantage over the Liberals, who dipped to 32.4 per cent support from 32.8 per cent last month.

The NDP is tracking at 16.3 per cent compared to 15.6 per cent in September; the Bloc is at 9.8 per cent, having dropped from 12.1 per cent; and Elizabeth May's Green Party is polling at 4.9 per cent, down from 6.2 per cent last month.

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Nik Nanos revealed his poll on CTV's Power Play Wednesday evening. The survey of 1,002 Canadians was conducted between Oct. 1 and Oct. 6. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Mr. Nanos notes the Liberals have managed to hold on to the support they gained over the summer - but they have not been able to build on it. This, despite the fact that MPs have been back in the House since the middle of September.

Usually the government drops in support when they are under fire in the Commons. But the pollster attributes the Tory growth, in part, to the fact that the intensity and controversy over issues, such as scrapping the long-form census and the Helena Guergis affair, has died down.

Mr. Nanos notes some interesting shifts in his latest set of data. He says that women voters are being repelled by the Tories, who are picking up the male vote. He attributes this to two recent issues: the Conservative effort to scrap the long-gun registry and the announcement of the $16-billion purchase for 65 new generation stealth fighter jets.

Women are parking their vote in the undecided column, Mr. Nanos says. They aren't going to the Liberals and he figures that women may be the key contingent in the next election. Overall, his poll shows 17.1 per cent of voters undecided.

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