July 16, 2009 / 4:28 PM / in 8 years

Conservatives take small lead in poll

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Conservatives have moved into a small lead in public opinion, a poll released on Thursday showed, as the Liberals mull whether to try to bring down the minority government this autumn.

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper pauses during a news conference at the end of the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy July 10, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

But the Ekos poll showed the lead to be within its margin of error, with neither major party able to break out and take a clear lead.

Ekos put the Conservatives at 34.1 percent and the Liberals at 32.4 percent, with the left-leaning New Democrats at 15.2 percent and the Bloc Quebecois at 8.7 percent. A week ago, the Liberals led the Conservatives 32.2 percent to 31.8 percent and the two parties have been seesawing back and forth for weeks.

The Liberals threatened in June to try to force an early election by voting against a government budget measure, but decided against it.

They will have another opportunity in late September or early October and though politicians often say polls do not matter, privately they agree they weigh heavily in calculations of whether to trigger elections.

The July 8-14 automated telephone survey covered 2,309 decided voters, for a 2.0 percentage point margin of error 19 times out of 20.

The survey also found 54 percent of respondents oppose Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan, while 34 percent support it, and 12 percent said neither. The Conservatives and Liberals have agreed that the mission should end in mid-2011.

Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Peter Galloway

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