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Prime Minister Stephen Harper sits in a CF-18 Hornet as Major Daniel Dionne explains the controls. In an environment in which the Conservatives are talking about issues such as weaponry and fighter jets, they've been able to do well among men, pollster Nik Nanos says, but a focus on women would likely help them out during the next election.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Political parties would be wise to tailor their policies to women who, as a group, are less likely than men to have already determined who they will vote for in the next federal election, says one of Ottawa's leading pollsters.

When Nanos Research asked Canadians earlier this month about their voting intentions, the numbers echoed what most polls have been suggesting for some time: The Liberals are a few percentage points behind the Conservatives but neither is in majority territory.

The Conservatives had the support of 36.6 per cent of decided voters, the Liberals were second with 32.4 per cent, the New Democrats took 16.3 per cent, the Bloc Québécois had 9.8 per cent, and the Greens trailed with 4.9 per cent.

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But the numbers behind the numbers point to a divergence of views between men and women that parties would be wise to try to use to their advantage, Nik Nanos, the president of the polling company, said Wednesday.

Men polled heavily in favour of the Conservatives, with 41 per cent of decided male voters saying they would mark their ballot for the party of Stephen Harper. In contrast, just 30.7 per cent of decided female voters said the Conservatives would get their support.

Liberal support was split fairly evenly between men and women. About 32 per cent of decided male and female voters said that is the way they are leaning.

But "when we look at the undecided [voters]" Mr. Nanos said, "we can see that only 12 per cent of men are undecided compared to 22 per cent of women. That speaks to the opportunity."

If the Conservatives could appeal to women, they could make real gains, Mr. Nanos said. If the Liberals could garner more unwavering support from women, they could do the same.

"In terms of future growth, I look at these numbers and it's clear that women are a key battleground," he said. "Instead of thinking about the 905 belt, parties should be thinking about strategies that can have some sort of appeal to women."

Mr. Nanos said the poll was conducted after the Conservative government had announced a number of policies that are more likely to appeal to men that women.

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"I thought that the numbers reflected the male-centric agenda of the government, at least in the last couple months, they are talking about guns and fighter jets," he said. "In an environment where they are talking about those types of issues, they've been able to do very well among men."

The poll also suggested that younger people are less likely than seniors to have made up their minds about which party will get their vote.

The telephone survey of 1,002 Canadians which was conducted between Oct. 1 and Oct. 6, is expected to accurately reflect the opinions of the Canadian population within 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

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