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Surging NDP support no fluke: poll

TORONTO, Ont. – With less than a week until the federal election, a new poll indicates the recent surge in support for the New Democratic Party is far from a fluke.

The NDP’s wave of popularity appears to be rolling across the country, with an Angus Reid Public Opinion Poll placing Jack Layton’s party only five points behind the Conservative front-runners, vaulting them ahead of the Liberals, who were traditionally considered the only real threat to Stephen Harper’s bid for leadership.

It has been nearly two decades since the NDP has seen such a powerful support base, but Jaideep Mukerji, vice president of Angus Reid, warns the “seismic shift” in support may not translate over to election day.

“Although the NDP vote is solidifying, a lot of their support is coming disproportionately from people between the ages of 18-35, who historically haven’t turned out to vote in the same numbers as older Canadians have,” Mukerji told 680News. “To some extent, the NDP’s success will rest on how motivated that particular age group is to come out and vote.”

The latest poll, done in partnership with the Toronto Star and La Presse, placed the Conservatives at 35 per cent support, and had the NDP trailing narrowly with a notable 30 per cent of the popular vote.

Meanwhile, the Liberals, who up until recently were considered a near lock for second place, have dropped to 22 per cent.

The last time the NDP possessed 30 per cent of the popular vote was 20 years ago, when Ed Broadbent was leading the party. Mukerji claims a large portion of the NDP’s success can be credited to the personal popularity and leadership of Layton.

“I think a lot of this has to do with Jack Layton, one of the things we’ve been seeing is that his personal popularity numbers are just sky-high,” Mukerji said. “He’s got just under 50 per cent of people that approve of the job he’s doing, two-thirds of Canadians see him as a leader that is appealing to them, and that just puts him in a category outside any of the other political leaders.”

With 49 per cent approval, Layton is well ahead of Harper, who held approximately a 36 per cent approval rating in the poll.

Here in Ontario, the poll placed the Conservatives with a lead of 37 per cent, while the Liberals sit at an even 30 per cent. NDP support in the province was pegged at 27 per cent, only three points behind their national level.

Perhaps most surprisingly is the fact that the New Democrats are now number one in Quebec with 38 per cent of the popular vote – a full 11 points ahead of the Bloc Québécois.

It remains to be seen if the NDP can maintain their traction come the May 2 election. They held the lowest portion of committed votes, with 71 per cent, according to the Angus Reid poll.

Adding to the intrigue, the predictions of voter apathy playing a significant roll in the election may have been misplaced, as a record number of people headed to the polls to vote in advance over the Easter weekend. More than 2-million Canadians turned out, which is nearly a third more than the 2008 election.

The online poll was conducted from April 25 to 26 among 2,040 randomly selected Canadian adults.