April 12, 2011 / 12:44 PM / 7 years ago

Conservatives lead as election debate looms

TORONTO (Reuters) - The ruling Conservative Party will enter the first leaders’ debate ahead of the May 2 federal election with support of a commanding 39.7 percent of voters, according to an opinion poll released on Tuesday.

<p>Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign rally in Kitchener, Ontario April 8, 2011. Canadians will head to the polls in a federal election on May 2. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

The Nanos Research tracking poll of results over three days of surveys showed the Conservative Party lead slipping from 41.2 percent a day earlier. Support for the main opposition Liberals rose to 31.2 percent, from 30.4 percent.

A prime-time televised debate on Tuesday is seen as a make or break test for the Liberals’ election campaign, which needs a strong showing from leader Michael Ignatieff to have a chance in a stubbornly lopsided race.

The two-hour English-language debate -- which in the last election was watched by around 40 percent of Canadians -- is a chance for the former academic to shake off Conservative attack ads portraying him as an out of touch elitist.

Under Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system, a party needs around 40 percent of the vote to win a majority of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.

The daily Nanos tracking figures are based on a three-day rolling telephone sample of 990 decided voters and is considered accurate within a range of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Results from the last three days of polling are as follows:

Poll Release Date April 12 April 11 April 10

Conservatives 39.7 41.2 39.5

Liberals 31.2 30.4 31.6

NDP 16.8 15.2 14.7

Bloc Quebecois 7.8 7.8 8.1

Greens 4.0 4.6 4.8

Reporting by Pav Jordan; editing by Janet Guttsman

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