TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's ruling Conservatives retain a strong lead over their opponents, making it unlikely their minority government will face an election soon, according to a poll published on Saturday.
The Nanos Research survey put the Conservatives at 38 percent, down 1.8 percent from a poll conducted by the same firm about a month earlier. The opposition Liberals also saw their support fall by 1.2 percent to 28.8 percent.
Gains were made by the smaller left-leaning New Democrats, which had 17.9 percent support, the separatist Bloc Quebecois with 9.3 percent, and the Green Party with 5.9 percent.
Nanos said 34.8 percent of Canadians thought Stephen Harper, now in the office, makes the best prime minister among party leaders. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was in second place with 17.7 percent. This represents the widest gap between the two since Ignatieff became leader of the Liberal Party, it said.
The polling firm said that while Conservative support is stronger, "it is difficult to take advantage of it politically because of the Harper communications mantra that 'this isn't a good time for an election.'"
"Likewise, with a defeat in parliament at the hands of the opposition parties not imminent, it is hard for the Tories to plead the instability or unworkability of parliament," the firm added.
The Conservatives won a strengthened minority government in October 2008. Opposition parties have kept a close eye on the polls as they contemplate triggering fresh elections.
The Nanos poll of 1,005 adults was carried out from November 7 to November 10 and is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Reporting by Jeffrey Hodgson, editing by Vicki Allen