Conservatives hold only slim lead: poll

Mon Feb 8, 2010 12:27pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Conservatives have retained just a slim margin over the Liberal Party, according to a Nanos poll released on Monday.

The survey has the Conservative lead shrinking in the eight prior weeks from more than 9 percentage points to 1.7 points. Other polls have shown the Liberals slightly ahead.

The Conservatives had been as much as 15 points ahead in the autumn, after the Liberals tried to bring down the government and force an early election.

When the Liberals backed down, the margin began to shrink and then it virtually collapsed when Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper arranged at the end of December for the temporary suspension of Parliament until after the Vancouver Olympics. The opposition charged that he was trying to evade accountability.

Nanos put the Conservatives at 35.6 percent support, the Liberals at 33.9 percent, the leftist New Democrats at 16.4 percent and the separatist Bloc Quebecois at 8.5 percent. The Greens, who have no seats in Parliament, are pegged at 5.6 percent.

The Conservatives won the October 2008 election with a strengthened minority, but still require the support of one of the three opposition parties to stay in power. The Liberals say they have no intention of bringing the government down now.

Nanos polled 1,002 Canadians from January 29-February 4, including 783 decided voters. The margin of error for the larger sample is 3.1 points 19 times out of 20, and the margin for the decided sample is 3.5 points.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson)