Conservatives extend poll lead over Liberals

The federal Conservatives have widened their lead over the Liberals when it comes to voting intentions, a new poll suggests.

As the Tories' support shows signs of growing, disapproval ratings for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff are also going up.

The EKOS poll, released Thursday exclusively to the CBC, found that 39.7 per cent of respondents supported the Conservatives, while the Liberals had 25.7 per cent backing. The New Democratic Party had the support of 15.2 per cent of respondents, with the Green Party and the Bloc Québécois both at 9.7 per cent.

Conservative support was up 3.7 percentage points from a poll released last week, while Liberal support was off by four points. The NDP's support was up by 1.3 points, the Green Party was off by 0.8 points and the Bloc slipped by 0.1.

Since early September, when the Conservatives and the Liberals were in a virtual dead heat in the polls, the Tories have pulled ahead.

The latest poll was conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6. The polling period included the Oct. 1 vote on the Liberals' motion of no-confidence in the minority Tory government — a motion the Conservatives defeated as the NDP decided to abstain. The NDP has vowed to keep the government in power to ensure passage of legislation extending employment insurance benefits.

Liberals lose ground with voter base

EKOS president Frank Graves said the Liberals have lost ground with voters in traditional strongholds, including in Toronto and among women, university graduates, visible minorities and recent immigrants.

"Even visible minorities and recent immigrants who were like almost an automatic vote for the Liberals, have shifted," said Graves.

"They're running about equally now with the Conservatives. All these other groups are lining up more on the conservative side of the equation."

As his party has slipped in the polls, Ignatieff's disapproval ratings have grown.

The percentage of respondents who disapproved of the way Ignatieff is handling his job was 51 per cent, up from 38 per cent in August.

Ignatieff's approval rating was 19 per cent, down from 29 per cent two months ago.

Ignatieff addresses poll numbers

Graves said it is difficult to pinpoint why Ignatieff's popularity has plummeted in such a short time.

"Perhaps some of the framing that was put in place by the Conservatives and some of the so-called negative ads have stuck with Mr. Ignatieff," he said. "Because it's hard to line up anything he's said or done specifically."

Ignatieff, speaking Thursday morning in London, Ont., after addressing the local chamber of commerce, said there is "no question" the Conservatives have characterized or "framed" him in a certain way.

"I've got to lift that big frame off and let Canadians see who I really am, and we will be doing that," he said.

"If there are things I need to do better, I am certainly going to be ready to try, because I want to listen to Canadians and improve my performance any way I can," he said.

Harper approval rating rises

As for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his disapproval rating was 42 per cent, compared with 47 per cent in August. The percentage of respondents who approved of how Harper was doing his job was 39 per cent, for a gain of three percentage points.

NDP Leader Jack Layton had a disapproval rating of 31 per cent, an improvement from 33 per cent in August. Layton's approval numbers held steady at 34 per cent.

The poll randomly sampled 3,333 Canadians aged 18 and over. The margin of error associated with a sample of that size is plus or minus 1.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.