TORONTO (Reuters) - Support for the governing Conservative Party slipped in an opinion poll released on Thursday, and the party is in a statistical dead heat with the opposition Liberals.
Reporting figures that gave neither of Canada's two main political parties any reason to push for an early election, pollsters Ekos said the Conservatives with the support of 29.4 percent of voters, down from 32.5 percent two weeks earlier.
At the start of the summer the Conservatives, who have only a minority of seats in Parliament and need support from at least one other party to stay in power, held an 11 point lead over their main opposition, the Liberal Party.
The survey, conducted for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., showed that support for the opposition Liberal Party rose to 29.1 percent, from 27.9 percent.
Ekos said the drop in support for the Conservatives was almost exclusively among the university educated and reflected the minority government's poorly received decision to change the way it conducts the census.
The government is scrapping a mandatory long form census, annoying a raft of interest groups that say the need the data to make policy decisions.
"In seeking an explanation for these movements, we need look no further than the government's ill-received decision to end the mandatory long form census," EKOS said. "This move precipitated the current woes that the Conservative Party now faces."
The two big parties are now gearing up for what could be a stormy session of Parliament, with showdowns over issues like the fiscal deficit, gun control, anti-crime legislation and above all, the economy.
Parliament returns on September 20 and both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff have said they do not want an autumn election.
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 Ekos automated telephone survey of 3,559 Canadians was conducted between August 18 and 31. It considers the poll accurate to within 1.64 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Editing by Janet Guttsman