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MONTREAL (Reuters) - Quebec's Liberal Party has enough popular support to regain a majority government, and support for separation has weakened in the mainly French-speaking Canadian province, according to a poll published on Wednesday.
A CROP survey published in the French daily newspaper La Presse put popular support for the provincial Liberals at 38 percent, well ahead of the separatist Parti Quebecois (PQ) at 29 percent, and the Action Democratique du Quebec (ADQ), which trailed with just 17 percent.
Voter support for the Liberals in the province of 7.6 million would be enough to return them to power with a majority in the provincial legislature, pollster Claude Gauthier told La Presse.
"After a year of a government of cohabitation, people do not seem dissatisfied with what they have done," he said.
Those figures compare with the March 2007 election results of 33 percent for Liberals, 28 percent for the PQ and 31 percent for the ADQ, whose rise in popularity to form the official opposition was the main factor in knocking the Liberals to minority from a majority.
The CROP poll also showed weak support for Quebec independence. Only 36 percent of respondents said they would vote for Quebec separation from Canada.
Quebec voted against separation by a margin of less than a percentage point in a 1995 referendum, and by 20 points in 1980.
The Liberals do not want any more referendums on the question and the leadership of the PQ, which was in power during the two independence votes, has been backing away from holding one should it return to power.
The resurgence of the Liberals, who want Quebec to stay in Canada, comes at the expense of the ADQ, a fiscally and socially conservative party whose leader, Mario Dumont, recently unveiled a controversial policy demanding government limits on immigration.
Compared with results of a CROP poll taken about a month earlier, the ADQ have lost five percentage points, while the Liberals have gained 4 points and the PQ has advanced by 1.
The figures show dropping support for the ADQ across the province, including rural areas, where it traditionally has had a strong following.
"For Mario Dumont, the verdict is unequivocal; all the warning lights are flashing on the dashboard," wrote Denis Lessard in La Presse.
The poll results suggest that the ADQ and PQ, who both toyed with the idea of bringing down the minority Liberal government soon after the March 2007 election, will be in no hurry to seek an election anytime soon, analysts said.
The Liberals' showing in the poll, however, might prompt Quebec Premier Jean Charest to seek an election, possibly after the Francophonie Summit of French-speaking nations in Quebec City in mid-October, said Michel Auger, bureau chief for television network Radio-Canada at the provincial legislature.
"If the numbers are good, the temptation might be to go ahead, which would give us an election at the beginning of December," he said on the all-news RDI television network.
The CROP poll surveyed 1,000 people of voting age April 17 to 27 and carries an error margin of 3 percentage points. The results include a proportional distribution among the parties of the 19 percent of undecided voters.
Reporting by Robert Melnbardis; Editing by Peter Galloway