October 1, 2008 / 4:36 PM / in 9 years

Polls divided on Conservative majority

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Conservatives could turn their parliamentary minority into a majority in the October 14 election, according to one poll released on Wednesday, while other surveys suggest they could fall just short.

<p>Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper walks his daughter Rachel to school in Ottawa September 30, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

A Strategic Council survey for the Globe and Mail put the Conservatives at 39 percent support, with the official opposition Liberals well behind at 24 percent. The left-leaning New Democrats were at 19 percent.

A Harris-Decima/Canadian Press poll had the Conservatives unchanged at 36 percent, the Liberals down two points at 24 percent and the New Democrats off one point at 17 percent.

An Ekos automated telephone poll put the Conservatives at 34 percent and the Liberals at 25 percent, down two points from the day before, with the New Democrats up one point at 20 percent. It said the chances of a Conservative majority seemed to be slipping away.

Under Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system a party needs around 40 percent of the popular vote to gain a majority of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, or a bit less if the gap over the next party is very large.

At dissolution, the Conservatives had 127 seats, the Liberals 95, the separatist Bloc Quebecois 48, the leftist New Democrats 30, and the Green Party 1. Three seats were held by independents and four were vacant. To win a majority, 155 seats are needed.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he needs a strong mandate to manage an economy increasingly hit by the slowdown in the United States, by far Canada’s most important trading partner. Opposition parties say he is a right-wing extremist who cannot be trusted with a majority.

Strategic Counsel said that while 52 percent of Canadians were worried about a Harper majority, only 16 percent would change their vote in a bid to prevent it.

“It speaks to the lack of inspiration they feel about their other choices,” said Peter Donolo of Strategic Counsel.

The Liberals are struggling under the combined weight of an uninspiring leader and a complex carbon tax they are promising to introduce if they win.

Although the Conservatives hope to make big gains in French-speaking Quebec, where they have 11 of the province’s 75 seats, a CROP poll for La Presse showed that a massive swing to Conservatives was unlikely.

CROP put the Conservatives at 30 percent public support in the province, one point behind the separatist Bloc Quebecois. The Liberals had 16 percent.

“It’s possible the Conservatives could make some gains, but contrary to what one might have thought at the start of the campaign, there will not be a Conservative wave,” said Claude Gauthier of CROP.

The Strategic Counsel survey of 1,000 people was conducted September 28-29 and is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Harris-Decima polled 1,266 people September 28-30 for a 2.8 point error margin. Ekos polled 2,752 decided voters over the same period for a 1.9 point margin.

The CROP survey of 1,000 people was conducted over a much longer period, from September 18-28.

Reporting by David Ljunggren and Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson

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