NDP leader Jack Layton's debate performance is credited with a jump in NDP support in the new Angus Reid opinion poll released Monday.

NDP surge into tie for second: federal election poll

Layton approval rating climbs after TV debates

Leader Jack Layton’s debate performance has lifted the NDP into a tie for second place nationally with the federal Liberals at 25 per cent of voter support, according to a new Angus Reid poll.

The results continue to give the Conservatives a double-digit lead with 36 per cent of decided voter support, while the Bloc Quebecois has nine points and the Green Party has five per cent.

The four-point gain for the NDP is attributed to the party’s move past the Liberals into second place in western Canada and its emergence as a popular federalist option in Quebec with 26 per cent support there, about 10 points behind the Bloc.

Angus Reid vice-president Jaideep Mukerji credited Layton’s TV debate performance for giving him a 50 per cent approval rating, the highest of any Canadian federal politician the polling firm has measured in three years.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s approval rating is 33 per cent, while Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and Green leader Elizabeth May, who was excluded from the debates, both have 24 per cent.

Almost as many of those polled picked Layton as their preferred prime minister (27 per cent) as Harper (28 per cent), while Ignatieff was a distant third at 13 per cent.

But Mukerji noted 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.

The poll found 46 per cent of B.C. respondents would vote Conservative if the election were tomorrow, compared to 28 per cent for the NDP, 16 per cent for the Liberals and nine per cent for the Greens.

About 40 per cent of respondents in B.C. felt the Conservatives have governed well and now deserve a majority, significantly more than the 28 per cent nationally who agreed.

The poll conducted last Friday and Saturday is considered accurate to 2.2 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

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