But the least popular combination seems to be the most likely outcome, given polling of voters' party choices, while the most popular -- the Liberal-NDP scenario -- has little chance of coming to pass, said Darrell Bricker, president of polling firm Ipsos-Reid, which conducted the survey earlier this week.
"I think people really haven't become seized with what a minority government means yet," Mr. Bricker said yesterday. "I don't know if people have moved past the dynamics of the election itself into considering what the government is going to be."
Slightly more than half the respondents -- 56 per cent -- said they would find a Liberal minority supported by the New Democratic Party acceptable. Even 32 per cent of those who said they're voting Conservative told pollsters that a Liberal-NDP combination would be acceptable.
At the other end of the scale, only 28 per cent said they would find a Conservative government supported by the Bloc acceptable. In the Prairie provinces and Atlantic Canada, acceptance of such a combination was particularly low, at 19 per cent.
The other possible combinations fall somewhere between the two extremes, but it's clear Canadians generally dread a minority government backed by the Bloc. A Liberal minority supported by the BQ wins a 31-per-cent approval rating, the second-least-popular combination.
"People are more comfortable with what has existed before, which is a Liberal-NDP combination," Mr. Bricker said. "The other options, particularly the ones that the Bloc is part of, really have questionable acceptability to most Canadians."
Quebec voters are the exception. Their top choice is a Liberal-led minority supported by the Bloc, a combination that 54 per cent would find acceptable. About 47 per cent would find a Conservative-Bloc government acceptable, and the same number would accept a Liberal-NDP arrangement.
The same poll suggests that among decided voters the Liberals and the Conservatives are in a dead heat, with the Grits holding on to 32 per cent of popular support and the Conservatives with 31 per cent. The NDP has 17 per cent, and the Bloc is way ahead in Quebec, with 48 per cent.
|DECISION 2004 PAGE|
"With three days to go in the campaign, the polls are telling us that this is the closest election since the 1970s. So close that for the first time in 25 years, there are those who say that we could be facing a minority government," Liberal Leader Paul Martin to supporters.
• Bloc • Conservatives
• Liberals • NDP
ON THE TRAIL
• Liberals • Conservatives
• NDP • Bloc
• Ipsos-Reid • Ekos
• Environics • SES
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The Ipsos-Reid seat-projection model predicts that this kind of result would give the Conservatives about 117 seats and the Liberals about 101 on Monday.
The kingmaker would likely be the Bloc, since the NDP is not expected to win enough seats to give either the Liberals or the Conservatives control of the House of Commons. A working majority requires 155 seats in the next Parliament, which will have 308 members.
In Quebec, the Liberals have tried to argue that a vote for the Bloc is a vote for a Conservative government. In other parts of the country, they have tried to encourage an anti-Stephen-Harper movement, to consolidate the centre-left vote.
But the poll shows that half of the voters in the survey believe the Liberals will win, a belief that won't help the party's strategy to promote strategic voting in their favour.
By the numbers
A group of 2,000 Canadian respondents were asked what type of government condition was acceptable:
A Liberal-led minority supported by the NDP
A Liberal-led minority government supported by the Conservatives
A Conservative-led minority government supported by the Liberals
A Conservative-led minority government supported by the NDP
A Liberal-led minority government supported by the Bloc Québécois
A Conservative-led minority government supported by the Bloc Québécois