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TORONTO (Reuters) - The Conservatives would win a strong majority in Parliament if elections were held today, according to a poll showing the new leader of the opposition Liberals has done little to boost public support.
Canadians favour the Conservatives over the Liberals by 45 percent to 26 percent, an Ipsos Reid poll showed. The New Democrats (NDP) had the backing of 12 percent.
Results of the poll were reported on Saturday on the Ottawa Citizen's website -- www.ottawacitizen.com/Public+wants+compromise+coalition+poll+finds/1070463/story.html.
The 19-point lead for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's party is only slightly narrower than what the Conservatives enjoyed in a Ipsos Reid poll released on December 5, before the Liberals replaced the unpopular Stephane Dion with Michael Ignatieff.
The Conservatives, whose minority government was returned to power in October 14 elections with 37.6 percent of the vote, would need at least 40 percent to win a majority of the seats in the House of Commons, political analysts say.
Dion, who led the Liberals to one of their worst election defeats in history, bowed to pressure within his party to step down this week, instead of in May, clearing the way for Ignatieff to take the reins on Wednesday,
The switch follows Harper's decision to suspend Parliament rather than face a no-confidence vote by opposition parties over his budget proposals.
The opposition's threat to vote down the government when the House reconvenes in late January has raised the prospects of fresh elections or the formation of a Liberal-NDP coalition government supported by the separatist Bloc Quebecois.
The latest poll, conducted for Canwest News Service and Global National, shows most Canadians would prefer neither of those options. Almost two-thirds of the respondents said they would prefer that Ignatieff find a compromise with Harper to keep the Conservatives in power.
On Friday, Harper held his first meeting with Ignatieff since the former Harvard don assumed the Liberal leadership. The two talked about the economy and the upcoming budget, a Liberal spokesman said.
Opposition parties want the Conservatives to move aggressively to stimulate the economy in the face of the global financial crisis. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he would hold talks on the budget with senior Liberals on Monday.
Ipsos Reid conducted telephone interviews with 1,001 adults from Tuesday through Thursday. The results are considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times in 20.
Reporting by Frank McGurty; Editing by John O'Callaghan