VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada's Conservative government holds a clear lead in public support, but it appears to be due largely to weakness of the second-place Liberals, according to a poll released on Thursday.
The weekly Ekos survey for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp put the Conservatives at 33.1 percent support, compared with 28.9 percent for the main opposition Liberals and 15.7 percent for the left-leaning New Democratic Party.
"This is a tribute at least as much to Liberal weakness as to Conservative strength," said Ekos President Frank Graves.
Last week's Ekos-CBC survey had the minority Conservative government with 32.4 percent support, compared with 29.6 for the Liberal Party and 16 percent for the NDP.
The latest federal budget, which promised to clamp down on spending to help eliminate a record deficit caused in part by a multibillion-dollar stimulus programs, appeared to have helped the Conservatives, Graves said.
The survey found that 44 percent of those polled felt the government was going in the right direction compared with 45 percent who thought it was going in the wrong direction, and 11 percent who did not know or would not say.
The national poll numbers show neither of the two main parties with strong enough support to clearly win an election if it were held today. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff have both said they do not want an election at this time.
The Conservatives lead the Liberals in Western Canada and are tied in Ontario and Atlantic Canada. The Liberals lead the Conservatives in Quebec, but they both trail the regional Bloc Quebecois, which has equivalent of 9.2 support nationally.
The survey found 25.2 percent of Conservatives would vote Liberal as their second choice nationally, compared with 18.6 percent of Liberals looking the other way. More Liberals, 32.7 percent, picked the NDP as their second choice.
The Green Party, which does not have any seats in Parliament, has 10.8 percent voter support.
Reporting Allan Dowd; editing by Rob Wilson