The federal Conservatives' lead over the rival Liberals stands at five points, according to a new survey by EKOS, putting the parties back on a familiar footing after recent surveys showed a much wider gap.
The latest results from EKOS, released exclusively to CBC News, found 32.4 per cent of respondents said they would vote for Stephen Harper's Conservatives if an election were held now, compared with 27.3 per cent prepared to vote for Michael Ignatieff's Liberals.
Jack Layton's NDP had the backing of 14.8 per cent of respondents, while 11.9 per cent said they would vote for Elizabeth May's Green Party. The Bloc Québécois, led by Gilles Duceppe, was at 10.5 per cent. Three per cent of respondents said they would vote for another party.
The Tories' support dropped by nearly five percentage points since the previous EKOS poll, released two weeks ago, which showed them leading the Liberals by 12.5 percentage points. Liberal support increased by two-and-a-half percentage points.
Support for the NDP and Bloc increased by less than a percentage point, while the Greens saw their support increase by just over a percentage point.
In total, a random sample of 2,811 Canadians aged 18 and over responded to the survey between Feb. 10-22. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-1.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
After the last EKOS poll suggested the Conservatives were closing in on majority government territory, the Conservative Party said the poll results were inconsistent with its own internal polling data.
Three other pollsters later released survey results that put the Conservatives in similar territory.
Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research, said on CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomonthat the dip in Conservative fortunes seen in the latest results follows a familiar pattern.
"Every time the Conservatives either knock on the door or enter majority territory over the last five years, we have seen a recoil effect in very specific parts of the electorate, where people who say 'Yeah, I liked you but maybe not that much now that you're in majority territory' recoil and move off-side and bring the rates back to a narrower point than what we've seen."
Graves noted that the four polls were consistent both in the size of the gap — nearly 13 points — and in terms of where the voting shift occurred, with women voters and swing voters in Ontario.
"And it is quite likely those polls, which came one after another, all showing Conservatives very close if not in majority, alerted some voters to say 'Maybe I should try the other guys.'"
Graves added that recoil effect may have been magnified by the controversy involving International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda and the decision to not provide government funding to faith-based developmental agency Kairos.
Oda admitted last week that she ordered a department document that recommended renewing the funding altered to deny it instead. She had previously said she had followed the department's advice in deciding to cut the funding.
The opposition has asked House Speaker Peter Milliken to determine whether Oda had intentionally misled Parliament.