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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The federal Conservatives have opened up a big lead over their main rivals and would come close to winning a majority of seats if an election were held now, according to a poll released on Monday.
The Nanos Research poll put the Conservatives at 38.1 percent support, up from 37.1 percent in early November. The official opposition Liberals were at 31.2 percent, down from 31.6 percent.
Many political observers expect the minority government to be brought down over its budget in early 2011.
The Nanos figures suggest the Conservatives would easily retain their minority government status.
Under Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system, a party needs to win around 36 percent of the vote to gain a workable minority. Winning a majority usually takes 39 to 40 percent.
Last week the Conservatives captured a safe Liberal seat on the outskirts of Toronto, an area where they need to do better in to win a majority.
Pollster Nik Nanos said the Conservatives were benefiting from splits between the Liberals and the left-leaning New Democrats, who compete for some of the same areas of the electorate.
The survey of 1,002 adults was conducted between November 29 and December 2 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson