OTTAWA - Despite a hellish month, a new poll suggests the federal Liberals remain in a statistical dead heat with the Conservatives in public support.

Although they've been bombarded with negative news coverage, suffered disastrous byelection results and are feuding publicly, they're only two percentage points behind the Tories.

The Conservative 33-31 per cent national lead in the latest Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey falls within the margin of error. The NDP is at 16 per cent and the Green party is at 10.

The Liberals actually lead the Tories in the three largest provinces, throughout Atlantic Canada, and among women and younger voters.

The parties are tied in urban Canada.

The Conservatives hold commanding leads in the prairies, among voters over age 50, among those who earn over $100,000 and among men.

Pollster Bruce Anderson says that while the overall numbers show a statistical tie, the Conservatives have more reason for optimism than the Liberals.

That reason is Quebec.

The overall numbers in that province show the Bloc Quebecois at 31 per cent, the Liberals at 23 per cent, the Tories at 22 per cent, and the NDP at 13 per cent.

But those numbers hide a key reality: the Liberal numbers and, to a lesser extent the Bloc ones, are inflated by a small group of Montreal ridings where those parties rack up gigantic majorities.

Tory support is spread more evenly throughout the province's outlying francophone areas, where there are a number of winnable seats.

That's because the Tories appear to be winning the lion's share of soft nationalists, many of whom appear to be abandoning the Bloc.

The Harris-Decima poll showed Liberals with a 15-point lead among voters who described themselves as "federalists.''

The Bloc Quebecois had a 40-point lead among those who called themselves "separatists.''

But the Conservatives were nipping at the Bloc's heels (28-24 per cent for the Bloc) among the 40 per cent of Quebec voters who described themselves as somewhere between federalist and separatist.

In Ontario, the Liberals led the Tories 38-33, while they were ahead 33-29 in B.C., and 41-29 in Atlantic Canada.

The poll, part of the Harris-Decima weekly omnibus survey, questioned just over 1,000 people between Sept. 27 and Oct. 1. The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.