OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's ruling Conservatives have a slight lead in public support but do not enjoy enough backing to guarantee even a minority government if an election were held now, according to a large poll released on Tuesday.
The Harris-Decima survey for Canadian Press put the Conservatives on 33 percent, up 2 percentage points from a poll released by the same firm last week. The Liberals were down 2 points to 29 percent.
"There's nothing in these numbers that are cause for cheering among the ranks of either major party, let alone enthusiasm to go to the polls," said pollster Allan Gregg.
Under Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system, a party needs at least 36 percent of the popular vote to be sure of winning enough seats in the House of Commons to create a viable minority government.
The poll was the latest in a string of surveys over the last two months to show both major parties within touching distance of each other. The left-leaning New Democrats were stable on 16 percent.
The poll had largely been completed by the time the government released its budget last Thursday. Ottawa said the budget was designed to start reducing a record deficit.
The Harris-Decima survey of 2,936 adults was conducted between Feb 25 and March 7 and is considered accurate to within 1.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Frank McGurty