September 12, 2008 / 5:55 PM / in 9 years

Conservatives push to big lead in new polls

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Conservatives have a big lead over the Liberals, three new public opinion polls showed on Friday, the latest in a string of surveys to suggest the Conservatives might just be able to capture a majority government.

<p>Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper waves as he boards his campaign plane with his wife Laureen in Halifax, Nova Scotia September 12, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

The Conservatives, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, were elected in January 2006 and are campaigning for reelection on October 14. They held only a minority of seats in Parliament and needed support from at least one other party to stay in power.

An Ekos poll put public support for the Conservatives at 36 percent compared to 26 percent for the Liberals. The left-leaning New Democrats -- who are competing with the Liberals for the same bloc of voters -- were at 19 percent.

The survey of 4,367 decided voters carried out between Sept 8 and 11 is considered accurate to within 1.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

But Ekos said the Conservative lead had shrunk from the 39 to 24 point advantage recorded among a smaller subset of 1,000 voters on Sept 8.

A party generally needs close to 40 percent of the popular vote to win a majority of seats. A series of polls have put the Conservatives within a few points of that level though the majority of the surveys have them under 40 percent.

A Harris-Decima poll broke with that trend, however, and put the Conservatives at 41 percent and the Liberals at 26 percent, with the left-wing New Democrats on 14 points. A Harris-Decima poll released on Monday had put the Conservatives ahead of the Liberals by 36 points to 28.

Harris-Decima surveyed 1,188 decided or leaning voters from September 8-11, a sample size that carries a margin of error of 2.9 points 19 times out of 20.

A Nanos Research daily tracking poll put the Conservatives on 38 percent, up one point from the previous day, with the Liberals down a point on 31 percent. The New Democrats were up one point at 14 percent.

The survey of 975 decided voters is considered accurate to within 3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Janet Guttsman

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