Quebec separatists set to win, independence idea unpopular

A campaign sign for Parti Quebecois legislator Stephane Bergeron is posted in the Quebec town of Varennes August 17, 2012. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

(Reuters) - A separatist party is on track to win power in Quebec next week, but only about a quarter of people in the predominantly French-speaking Canadian province back independence, according to a poll released on Friday.

The CROP survey for La Presse newspaper put the opposition Parti Quebecois on 32 percent public support, down one percentage point from a poll done by the same firm three days earlier. The party wants to hold a referendum on breaking away from Canada.

The newly created Coalition for the Future of Quebec (CAQ), which is led by a former PQ cabinet minister, stayed at 28 percent while the ruling Liberals remained at 26 percent. Quebec holds a provincial election on September 4.

CROP said the PQ was likely to win a minority of seats in the provincial legislature, forcing it to look to the other parties for support in governing. Neither the CAQ or the Liberals favor a referendum on independence.

PQ leader Pauline Marois says a government led by her would hold a referendum on separating from Canada when the time was right. Previous PQ governments held unsuccessful province-wide votes in 1980 and 1995.

CROP said only 28 percent of Quebecers would opt for independence now, down from 36 percent at the start of the campaign. Polls consistently show voters are most concerned about issues such as the economy and healthcare.

CROP pollster Youri Rivest said Marois had helped cut support for independence by declining to say when a referendum might take place.

The CROP telephone poll of 1,002 adults was conducted between August 27 and 29 and is considered to be accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Vicki Allen