The federal Conservatives maintained their three-percentage-point over the Liberals. ((EKOS))

The Conservatives are retaining their three-percentage-point lead over the Liberals, according to a new EKOS poll.

Asked which party they would support if an election were held tomorrow, 32.4 per of those polled backed the Conservatives, while the Liberals had the backing of 29.4 per cent.

NDP support stood at 15.2 per cent, the Green Party had 10.5 per cent, and the Bloc Québécois 9.4 per cent.

The poll results, which were released exclusively to CBC, are based on a survey Feb. 24 to March 2 of 2,796 Canadians aged 18 or over. The margin of error associated with a poll of this size is plus or minus 1.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The Liberals moved into a near-tie with the Conservatives in late January, at the height of the prorogation issue, but the Conservative slide in EKOS polls stopped as other issues such as the Haiti earthquake moved to the forefront.

The Tory lead of the last two weeks may suggest a modest "Olympic bounce" arising from Canadians' positive feeling about the Winter Games in Vancouver.

Conservative support continued to come mostly from respondents in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The Liberals and Conservatives are in a dead heat in B.C., Ontario and the Atlantic provinces.

Preferred priorities

EKOS also asked respondents which of three priorities should be the most important principle for the federal government's handling of its financial needs: social needs, such as health and jobs; keeping taxes as low as possible; or keeping the deficit as low as possible.

EKOS said that 58.8 per cent of those polled favoured investment in social areas, such as health and jobs, while 23 per cent preferred the government focus on keeping taxes low. Another 18 per cent wanted the government to concentrate on the deficit.

Liberal and NDP supporters were most likely to agree the federal government should invest in social areas, while Conservative supporters were most likely to agree the government should keep taxes and the deficit as low as possible.