Support for the Conservatives plunged in the days following the leaders' debates amid worries about Harper's approach to the economy, a pollster suggests.
"The economy, and to some extent the leaders' debate about what to do about the economy, have changed the dynamic of the campaign," said Harris/Decima president Bruce Anderson.
According to the latest four-day rolling Canadian Press-Harris-Decima survey, done in partnership with the CBC, about 32 per cent of participants said they would vote for the Conservatives. It marks yet another drop in the party's steady decline of support since its peak of 41 per cent at the start of the five-week election campaign.
Liberals rose to 25 per cent, while the NDP continued its climb with 21 per cent, according to the poll conducted Oct. 2-5.
The Green party fell a point to 12 per cent and the Bloc held steady with eight per cent voter support.
Harper 'too measured': Anderson
"You have clear evidence of a tightening race," said CBC's David Taylor, a senior producer on the CBC's election desk who keeps a close eye on the polls.
Anderson said Harper risks being perceived as "too measured in his reaction" to spreading economic uncertainty.
It's unlikely voters reject his argument that the fiscal fundamentals are sound, he said, but Ontario and Quebec voters seem to be seeking more empathy with their economic pain due to the troubled manufacturing sector.
They want a "sense that more policy action will be taken if needed to protect Canada from fallout," said Anderson.
Some voters, he warns, are perceiving Harper's steady approach as avoiding action — a perception he must seek to counter as the Oct. 14 election date nears.
'Tightly bunched three-way race'
Conservatives have seen their female support erode further to 29 per cent, while that support for Liberals and NDP rose to 25 and 24 per cent, respectively.
"The NDP [are] showing the greatest gains here and so Jack Layton's message is gaining traction among female voters," said Taylor.
With male voter support, it was "almost a straight swap" between the Conservative numbers falling to 35 per cent from 42 per cent and Liberals climbing seven points to 26 per cent, said Taylor.
Eighteen per cent of male voters surveyed expressed support for the NDP, while the Green party stood at 11 per cent and the Bloc had eight.
Among city dwellers, accounting for about four-fifths of the population, the Conservatives fell to 29 per cent from 34 while the Liberals bounced back to 27 per cent and NDP increased to 24 per cent.
"We're looking at a statistical dead heat with urban voters," said Taylor. "We have a tightly bunched three-way race at the top of the chart here."
Roughly 300 Canadians are interviewed every night as part of the rolling survey continuing through the five-week election campaign.
This sample represents 1,235 interviews gathered over the four days from Oct. 2 to Oct. 5. The results are considered accurate within plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.
The breakdowns of male, female and urban voting intentions vary in accuracy from within plus or minus 3.5 to 3.9 percentage points, with from 621 to 764 interviews for each.