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OTTAWA (Reuters) - A political party that does not yet exist would win the next Quebec election handily, beating both the ruling Liberals and separatists who want independence for the Canadian province, a poll indicated on Thursday.
The CROP survey for La Presse showed that 38 percent of voters would support a center-right Coalition for the Future of Quebec, currently a focus group looking at ways of improving the province without debating its place inside Canada
The survey indicates deep dissatisfaction with decades of arguments about the role of the French-speaking province ahead of an election that is likely in 2012.
"(The) biggest attraction is the idea of change. People want to vote for something new, something other than an old party," CROP's Youri Rivest told La Presse.
Both the Liberals and the PQ's federal partners, the Bloc Quebecois, bombed in the May federal election, when the left-leaning New Democrats won a big majority of Quebec seats.
The Coalition, launched in February by former Parti Quebecois cabinet minister Francois Legault, could offer another alternative, although Legault has not yet said if he will turn the Coalition into a political party.
A 38 percent share of the vote would in theory enough to win a narrow majority of seats in the provincial legislature. The Liberals were on 27 percent and the PQ on 18 percent.
The PQ led in the polls until June, when several of their top legislators quit in a mutiny over policies that slashed the party's popularity.
Markets tend to harbor some nervousness about the chances of the world's second largest country breaking up, a prospect which looks unlikely for now.
To win independence for Quebec, the PQ would first have to regain power and then hold a referendum on breaking away from Canada. Its two previous referendums, in 1980 and 1995, both failed and CROP said only 38 percent of Quebecers now backed the idea of independence.
If the Coalition became a party it would most likely compete for support with the right-leaning Action democratique du Quebec, which almost took power in the Quebec election of March 2007 and was then crushed when voters went back to the polls again in December 2008.
The CROP online poll of 1,000 adults was conducted between Aug 17 and 22. The firm did not give a margin of error.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Janet Guttsman