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'JackQuake' lifts NDP into second, poll shows

A surge in NDP support may make leader Jack Layton the new head of the Official Opposition in Parliament or even the next prime minister in a Liberal-backed coalition, a new opinion poll released Monday suggests.

The EKOS Research poll gives the NDP 28 per cent support nationally, second spot behind the Conservatives at 34 per cent and ahead of the Liberals at 24 per cent, a week before the May 2 federal election.

The pollsters project the NDP are poised to win 53 seats in Quebec and 100 across the country – a huge breakthrough that would reshape Canada's political landscape – compared to 131 seats for the Conservatives and 62 for the Liberals. The Bloc Quebecois would be hammered down to 13 seats in Quebec.

"The NDP and the Liberals combined would have a majority and 31 seats more than the Conservatives," the polling firm said. "It is hard to imagine how these totals would not produce the once unimaginable outcome of a Jack Layton-led coalition government deposing Stephen Harper's Conservative government."

Green party support ranges from four to seven per cent in recent polls.

The EKOS poll suggests seats in B.C. will continue to be split up, with 15 going Conservative, eight going Liberal and the NDP taking 13.

The results are considered accurate to plus or minus 1.8 per cent 19 times out of 20.

Three other polling firms have found the NDP at least tied with the Liberals over the past week or so.

A previous Angus Reid poll cited NDP leader Jack Layton's debate performance for lifting his party into a tie for second place nationally with the federal Liberals at 25 per cent of voter support.

Angus Reid vice-president Jaideep Mukerji said Layton's 50 per cent approval rating is the highest of any Canadian federal politician the polling firm has measured in three years.

But Mukerji cautioned Layton's new fans tend to be young – the age group least likely to vote – so converting the post-debate surge into actual seat gains will depend heavily on whether the NDP can increase the turnout of younger voters.

He also noted the NDP support is soft – a larger proportion say they could still change their minds.

Ekos, however, said Monday NDP support seems to be actually firming up.

"They may not have reached the ceiling of this JackQuake which is shaking the country," the Ekos analysis said.

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