Conservatives keep poll lead despite attacks

Thu Nov 26, 2009 10:07am EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Conservative Party has maintained a 10-point lead in popular support despite intense opposition attacks over its handling of Afghan detainees, a large poll released on Thursday showed.

The Ekos poll showed Conservative support up slightly to 36.9 percent from 36.6 percent two weeks earlier, and the Liberal Party, the biggest opposition party, up to 27.1 percent from 26.6 percent.

"The Conservatives' strength is very solid," Ekos President Frank Graves said in a statement. "However, they are still shy of a majority."

The Conservatives were reelected in October 2008 with a minority of seats in the House of Commons, requiring them to rely on opposition support. Victories in elections to fill vacant seats now put them 10 seats short of the 155 needed for a majority.

The opposition parties have mounted a fierce attack on the government since November 18, when a Canadian diplomat said that all the detainees that Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan handed over to Afghan authorities in 2006 and 2007 probably ended up being tortured.

The Ekos survey did not corroborate findings in a smaller Ipsos Reid poll that had the left-leaning New Democratic Party just five points behind the Liberals.

In many electoral districts a vote for the NDP is often seen as wasted but if the NDP does become competitive that political calculus disappears. Ekos had the NDP still 12 points behind the Liberals at 15.3 percent, lower than two weeks earlier.

On the downside for the Conservatives, Graves pointed out that respondents with positive and negative views of the government were roughly equal after a prolonged period of more positives for the government.

The automated telephone survey of 5,759 Canadians, including 4,744 decided voters, was taken from November 11 to 24. The margin of error associated with the total sample is 1.3 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Peter Galloway)

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during an event, to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, in Ottawa November 9, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>