Canadians warm to Conservatives, but wary: poll

Thu Jan 13, 2011 8:26pm EST
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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canadian voters are feeling better about how the Conservative government is doing, but an election now would be unlikely to produce major changes in Parliament, according to a poll released on Thursday.

The Conservatives have the support of 34.5 percent of voters, ahead of the main opposition Liberals with 27.3 percent and left-leaning New Democrats with 14.8 percent, said the Ekos survey for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

The results show Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives in a more comfortable position than at the start of last year when they were in a statistical tie with the Liberals, Ekos said.

The Conservatives have a minority government that requires the support of either the Liberals, New Democrats or separatist Bloc Quebecois to pass major legislation such as the budget.

Despite recent favorable polls, Harper says he does not plan to force an election in the near future to gain a majority government, and the Ekos survey indicates the Conservatives would have trouble doing that.

Ekos said while 40 percent of voters would prefer a Conservative-run government, 39 percent would rather have a government run by a coalition of the Liberals and New Democrats.

"All in all, this is a good poll for Stephen Harper's Conservatives, but with enough ambiguity and latent threat to explain why Conservative supporters are clearly leaning to playing out the mandate rather than risk the adventure of another election right now," Ekos said.

The Conservatives won a minority government in a January 2006 election and retained it an October 2008 vote but fell short of a majority amid lingering voter suspicions that Harper had a hidden extreme right-wing agenda.

The center and left-of-center vote is divided between the Liberals and New Democrats, which has helped the Conservatives keep power.

The Ekos telephone survey of 3,499 Canadians conducted between January 4 and 12 had a margin of error of 1.7 percentage points.

(Reporting by Allan Dowd; Editing by Peter Cooney)