The Conservatives are losing ground to the NDP among key group of voters — such as seniors and new Canadians — an exclusive new survey conducted by Nanos Research for CBC News Network's Power & Politics suggests.

The national online survey was conducted in the wake of the government's controversial omnibus budget implementation bill, which included changes to Old Age Security, Employment Insurance, immigration rules, environmental assessments and other policies.

Respondents were asked which federal party is most sensitive to the needs of different constituencies.

"We wanted to explore which party Canadians thought was the most sensitive to a wide array of groups, ranging from seniors to students to small businesses to new Canadians," Nik Nanos of Nanos Research told Power & Politics host Evan Solomon.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper greets seniors in Riviere du Loup, Que. during the 2011 election. A Nanos online survey suggests it is the NDP who are seen as most sensitive to the needs of seniors. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

"This gives us an indicator of who has the upper political hand with a lot of these critical groups that can make a significant difference at the ballot box," Nanos said.

The number that jumps out immediately involves seniors.

The survey suggests 28.4 per cent of Canadians feel the NDP is the party most sensitive to seniors' needs, compared to 17.4 per cent for the Conservatives and 12.1 per cent for the Liberals. Just over 14 per cent said "none" of the parties, while 24.3 per cent were unsure.

The New Democrats have a significant advantage over the Conservatives," said Nanos. "This is very important because when we think of the winning Conservative coalition, the coalition that put them into majority territory, a bedrock of that coalition has been seniors."

"The focus on the (Old Age Security) changes that the Conservative government is implementing is kind of unravelling and making seniors very concerned about how the government runs and deals with seniors," Nanos said.

Nanos said the results suggest the Conservatives need to have some kind of strategy to re-engage this group, which tends to have high voter-turnout and engagement. But the 24 per cent of respondents who are "unsure" show there is room for the Conservatives to roll out policies to re-engage this critical segment of voters, Nanos added.

Parties in tight battle for new Canadians

The NDP also had a wide margin in the lead when it came to students, a traditional area of support for the party. New Democrats were seen as the most sensitive to students' needs by 25 per cent of respondents, compared to 13.6 per cent for the Conservatives and 13.1 per cent for the Liberals. Fourteen per cent chose "none," while 27 per cent were unsure.

While voter turnout among young people has lagged other age groups, Nanos noted that may be changing in provinces such as Quebec, where student-led protests may be signalling a greater engagement. The survey suggests that could be an advantage for NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

The numbers for new Canadians were much closer, essentially a three-way battle between the NDP at 19.9 per cent, the Conservatives at 17.9 and the Liberals at 17.1 per cent. More then 31 per cent said they were unsure which party was most sensitive to the needs of new Canadians, while 9.7 per cent said none of the parties.

"The good news for the Liberals: at least they are competitive with the Conservatives and New Democrats on this measure, but for the Conservatives this has to be a little disappointing. It's been a priority group for them, they've made key in-roads. In certain select ridings - the Mississaugas, the Bramptons - new Canadians have made the Conservatives and put them over the top because of all that legwork that (Immigration Minister) Jason Kenney has done."

The national online survey of 1,000 Canadians was conducted June 11 to 12. It is not a scientifically random sample and therefore a margin of error can't be stated. 

National online survey of 1,000 Canadians. The survey is not a random sample, therefore a margin of error is not available.