Support for Tories up amid House crisis, CBC-EKOS poll suggests

The Conservatives appear to have won the initial public relations war surrounding the current impasse on Parliament Hill during one of the most chaotic weeks in Canadian political history, a new EKOS poll conducted for the CBC suggests.

The Conservatives appear to have won the initial public relations battle surrounding the impasse on Parliament Hill, during one of the most chaotic weeks in Canadian political history, an EKOS poll conducted for the CBC suggests.

Respondents in the two-day automated telephone survey conducted Tuesday and Wednesday were asked: "If an election were held tomorrow, which party would you vote for?"

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives received 44 per cent of respondents' support, up from the 37.6 per cent support the Tories received in the federal election that returned them to Ottawa with another minority government just seven weeks ago.

The results suggest support for Stéphane Dion's Liberals was down two percentage points from the election, with 24 per cent of respondents' support, while the New Democrats were down almost four percentage points at 14.5 per cent support.

Meanwhile, the Bloc Québécois was at nine per cent and the Greens at eight per cent.

"It does appear that in this period, right out of the gates, the Conservatives have done a much better job of getting their message out to Canadians who are making up their minds about who to blame for this current mess," Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research, told CBC News on Thursday.

Harper was also the favoured leader to deal with the economic crisis.

Forty-seven per cent of respondents selected a Conservative government led by Harper as better able to manage the financial crunch, compared with 34 per cent who supported a proposed Liberal-NDP coalition government led by Dion.   

But the overall message of the numbers appears to be that Canadians are deeply divided on the political future of the country, Graves said.

"I think the overall response from the public is one of being flummoxed, angry and confused," he said.

"They don't really know what the issues are. They just know something's wrong and it shouldn't be."

The poll results also suggest that as angry as some Canadians are about political inaction in Ottawa, Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean may have gauged public opinion correctly when she approved the prime minister's request to suspend, or prorogue, Parliament on Thursday.

16 per cent want another election: poll

Some 37 per cent of respondents in the survey said they wanted MPs to take a month off to see whether the Conservative minority government can get the confidence of Parliament when it comes back into session.

Twenty-eight per cent said they wanted a Liberal-NDP coalition, with the support of the Bloc Québécois, to replace the government in the next few weeks, while 16 per cent said they wanted another election within the next few weeks.

The survey was largely conducted ahead of the speeches Harper and the three opposition leaders gave Wednesday night, EKOS said.

It also asked whether respondents had confidence in the Governor General's ability to make decisions about the political impasse. Forty-eight per cent of respondents said they were confident in Jean's ability, while 16 per cent said they were moderately confident.

But 36 per cent said they were not very confident. The answers broke along party lines, Graves said.

"Conservatives were much more likely to express low levels of confidence, particularly those out west, whereas Liberals and NDP express much greater levels of confidence," he said.

The survey was conducted using interactive voice recognition (IVR) technology, which allows respondents to state their preferences over the phone without talking to an interviewer. 

In total, a random sample of 2,536 Canadians aged 18 and over responded to the survey. A sample of this size provides a margin of error of plus or minus 1.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

EKOS said the data were statistically weighted to ensure the sample reflected the Canadian population according to census data.