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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Conservatives look more and more likely to win the Canadian election, with people now wondering if the party will form a majority government and who will head the opposition, a leading pollster said on Thursday.
"The campaign is beginning to look more 'locked in' -- particularly for the Tories," the polling firm Ekos said in an analysis of their latest surveys.
The Conservatives won a minority of seats in the House of Commons in the January 2006 election and had to rely on the support of an opposition party to remain in power. They are seeking a strengthened mandate in the October 14 vote.
Some voters have said they are afraid of a Conservative majority, fearing a major shift further to the political right. But Ekos said that thinking has not significantly moved the Conservatives' polling numbers.
"Apart from a slight slump in the first week of the campaign, we are not seeing (as we did in 2006) the electorate recoil from the prospect of a Conservative majority," Ekos said.
For several days, Ekos has shown the Conservatives with 38 percent support to 23 or 24 percent for the Liberals. Two other polling firms have shown a smaller but relatively stable Conservative lead of around 9 points while a fourth firm has put the lead at 19 points.
Ekos also found that the Conservatives have the firmest base of voter support -- those least likely to change their minds and the most likely to say they do not have a second choice -- and they are the most likely to go out and vote.
The polling firm has not done a seat projection on its current data but with similar numbers on Tuesday it forecast a Conservative majority.
At dissolution, the Conservative government had 127 of the 308 seats in the House. The Liberals had 95 seats, the separatist Bloc Quebecois 48, the leftist New Democrats 30, and the Green Party 1. Three seats were held by independents and four were vacant. To win a majority, 155 seats are needed.
On the question of who will win the second-highest number of seats, the New Democrats are mounting a strong challenge with 18 percent support to the Liberals' 24 percent. The Greens stand at 12 percent and the separatist Bloc Quebecois, which field candidates only in French-speaking Quebec, at 8.
Ekos said the Liberals and the New Democrats have the best hopes for picking up additional votes as they are selected most often as second choice. But it said that undecided voters are unlikely to be a major factor as they number less than 10 percent and are stable.
The Ekos survey was an automated phone poll of 3,892 decided voters from Monday through Wednesday, carrying a margin of error of 1.6 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson