May 6, 2010 / 3:40 PM / in 8 years

Canada's ruling Conservatives extend lead: polls

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s ruling Conservatives appear to be unaffected by a political scandal and have extended their lead over the main opposition Liberal Party, according to two polls released on Thursday.

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa May 3, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

A weekly Ekos survey for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. put popular support for the Conservatives at 33.1 percent, up from 31.9 percent last week. Support for the Liberals fell to 26.1 percent from 26.6 percent.

The poll indicates neither party has enough backing to win an election now, and reinforces the impression that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has yet to connect with voters since taking over the party in December 2008.

Under Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system, where the candidate with the most votes in each constituency wins, a party typically needs at least 40 percent public support to capture a majority of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.

To win a workable minority government, it needs around 36 percent. The Conservatives won a strengthened minority in October 2008 but still need the support of opposition legislators to govern.

Conservative popularity, which dipped after Prime Minister Stephen Harper removed a junior cabinet minister on April 9 amid accusations of scandal, has since recovered.

The Ekos automated telephone survey of 1,887 voters was conducted from April 28 to May 4 and is considered accurate to within 2.3 percentage points, with a 19 in 20 chance of being totally correct.

A poll by Nanos Research put the Conservatives at 37.2 percent public support, up from 34.7 percent from a survey done by the same firm in mid-March. The Liberals were at 33.2 percent, down from 34.2 percent.

Pollster Nik Nanos said the number of undecided voters has hit a relatively high 22 percent, which he linked to negative campaigning and mudslinging by both main parties.

The Nanos survey of 780 decided adults was conducted between April 30 and May 3 and is considered accurate to within 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson

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