October 2, 2008 / 5:48 PM / 9 years ago

Conservatives stuck in minority status: poll

<p>Conservative leader and Prime Minister Stephen Harper (L) makes a point as NDP leader Jack Layton looks on during the French leaders' debate in Ottawa, October 1, 2008. Canadians will head to the polls in a federal election October 14. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The chances of the governing Conservatives turning their parliamentary minority into a majority appear to be diminishing as candidates enter the final stretch of a campaign for the October 14 election, according to one poll released on Thursday.

The Ekos poll showed the Conservatives at 34 percent support among decided voters, with the official opposition Liberals well behind at 25 percent. The left-leaning New Democrats were at 19 percent.

The results contrasted with those of a Strategic Counsel survey for the Globe and Mail on Wednesday that showed the Conservatives within reach of a majority at 39 percent.

Under Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system a party needs around 40 percent of the popular vote to gain a majority of the 308 seats in Parliament. The Conservatives now have 127.

The number of voters willing to switch allegiances is falling, Ekos said.

“All parties are holding to their lanes, and the prospects of any of them making a dramatic shift in the remaining 12 days of the campaign are ebbing away as the number of undecided voters and potential switchers falls,” the pollster said.

The numbers were the same as Ekos results before the first televised election debate on Wednesday evening, which took place in French.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not deliver any knockout blow in the debate that might have boosted his popularity in French-speaking province of Quebec, which accounts for 75 of the 308 seats in Parliament.

Ekos said the number of decided Conservative voters who said they were likely to change their voting intention fell to 8 percent from 11 percent in the second week of the campaign. Thirteen percent of Liberal supporters said they were likely to switch parties, down from 16 percent.

The party leaders have a second crack at debating Thursday evening, this time in English -- the mother tongue of Harper but not of Liberal leader Stephane Dion, who often stumbles in his second language.

“The English debate tonight may be the last chance for the leaders to break out of the pattern set in this campaign so far,” said Ekos president Frank Graves.

The Ekos automated telephone survey polled 3,428 decided voters Monday through Wednesday with a margin of error of 1.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Another poll on Thursday by Harris-Decima also showed the Conservatives holding steady at 36 percent, widening the gap slightly against the Liberals who slipped to 23 percent from 24 percent.

Harris-Decima polled 1,267 people Sunday through Wednesday with a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Peter Galloway

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