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[Ottawa – March 4, 2010] – The Conservatives retained a three-percentage point lead over the opposition Liberals in this week’s EKOS Research Associates poll – the last conducted before today’s federal budget. The size of the lead is virtually unchanged from last week’s poll.

“Although a lead of this size is small – near the edge of statistical significance – the fact that it has held now for two weeks suggests it is real,” said Frank Graves, President of EKOS Research Associates. “In any case, it is a substantial fall from the nine-point lead the Conservatives enjoyed in December, just before they prorogued Parliament.”

Looking over a shorter timeframe, the Liberals moved into a near-tie with the Conservatives in late January, at the height of the prorogation issue, but the Tory slide stopped as other issues such as the Haiti earthquake dominated the headlines. The Tory lead of the last two weeks may suggest a modest “Olympic bounce” arising
from Canadians’ positive feeling about the games that just ended.

“We are now moving back into a much more political season, with the throne speech and the budget this week,” said Graves. “This will be the real test. The government needs to manage the economy in a difficult time with a leader popular only with his supporters. He faces an opposition leader who has not made a good impression in his first year in the job, and who has failed to identify his party with a clear set of policies.”

A few weeks ago, EKOS asked Canadians how they would handle the deficit, and found that many Canadians preferred spending cuts over other measures, such as tax increases or simply continuing to run a large deficit. This week EKOS asked a question that set the deficit in the context of overall budget priorities rather than the other way around. The result was quite different.

More than half of the Canadians we sampled said they favour investment in social areas such as health, education and jobs over keeping taxes low or keeping the deficit as low as possible.
“This result demonstrates the importance of the way in which these difficult fiscal issues are ‘framed’,” said Graves. “When Canadians are asked about their priorities for government, they are still in a spending mood. The deficit is at the bottom, not the top of their list of concerns. Any attempt to slash spending now to tackle the deficit would meet with resistance if key areas of social spending were threatened.”

EKOS samples public opinion every weekday night for vote intention and gathers much larger sample sizes than other published surveys. The polls are conducted for exclusive release by the CBC.

Click here for the full report: full_report_march_4

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