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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Public backing for Canada's governing Conservatives has slipped, leaving the party short of the votes needed to win an election if one were held now, according to a poll released on Thursday.
The weekly Ekos survey put support for the Conservatives at 31.7 percent, down from 33.9 percent last week. Support for the Liberals, the biggest opposition party, dropped to 26.2 percent from 27.1 percent.
Under Canada's electoral system, a party needs at least 40 percent public support to capture a majority of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, and around 36 percent to win a workable minority.
The Conservatives won a strengthened minority in the October 2008 election with just under 38 percent of the vote but have slipped since then, in part because of public unhappiness at what critics call Prime Minister Stephen Harper's domineering style of government.
The poll had little good news for the Liberals, who were in power for more than 12 years before losing a January 2006 election to the Conservatives. Since then they have struggled to make an impact.
The Ekos automated telephone survey of 2,431 people was conducted between May 26 and June 1 and is considered accurate to within 2.0 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway