ekos-jan27-11

The federal Conservatives hold a 7½-point lead on the Liberals, though fewer Canadians now think the country will head to the polls this spring, a new EKOS survey suggests.

The survey also found that for the first time since last summer, more Canadians believe the governing Conservatives are headed in the right direction than the wrong direction.

The latest results from EKOS, released exclusively to CBC News, found 35.4 per cent of respondents said they would vote for Stephen Harper's Conservatives if an election were held now, compared with 27.9 per cent who said they'd vote for Michael Ignatieff's Liberals.

The New Democrats led by Jack Layton received the support of 14.8 per cent of respondents, while the Green Party received 9.8 per cent, and 9.7 per cent backed the Bloc Québécois, the pollster said.

The Tories' lead increased by half a percentage point since the previous EKOS poll, released two weeks ago. The Liberals also recorded a small increase in support from Jan. 13.

NDP support remained steady, while the Green Party's support dropped by more than half a percentage point in two weeks. The Bloc Québécois also recorded a drop of a tenth of a percentage point.

Despite holding a seven-and-a-half point lead, the poll results suggest the Conservatives would form a third consecutive minority government if an election were held now. That would be Canada's fourth successive minority government.

While response to the question of whether the country is headed in the right direction held largely steady, the percentage of respondents who indicated a favourable view of the federal government's direction increased. In this week's poll, 44.2 per cent said the Conservative government was heading in the right direction while 43.6 per cent said it was headed in the wrong direction.

In the poll released on Jan. 13, 45 per cent of respondents said the government was heading in the wrong direction; 43.1 per cent said it was headed in the right direction.

The number of respondents who believe the next federal election will be held "as soon as possible" dropped to 14 per cent from 17 per cent. Forty per cent of respondents said they believe there will not be an election until 2012.

EKOS also asked respondents "If you were forced to choose between a Conservative government led by Stephen Harper and a coalition government made up of Liberals and New Democrats and led by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, which would you prefer?"

Forty-one per cent of respondents said a Conservative government, while 39 per cent said a coalition. The survey question did not mention any potential participation of the Bloc Québécois, which signed a pledge to support the failed 2008 Liberal-NDP coalition agreement between Stéphane Dion and Layton.

In total, a random sample of 4,622 Canadians aged 18 and over responded to the survey between Jan. 13-26. The margin of error associated with the total sample is plus or minus 1.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Speaking in Morocco on Thursday, Harper repeated that Canadians don't want to head to the polls, and instead want the government to focus on the economy.

"And my position remains that we are of course very interested in hearing from the opposition on any particular measures that would help the Canadian economy, and obviously we are listening very carefully in that regard, but I don't think it is ever inevitable to do something the Canadian people don't want us to do."