OTTAWA - Michael Ignatieff is by far the least popular federal political leader, a new poll suggests.

Only 26 per cent of Canadians had a positive impression of the Liberal leader, according to The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey.

Twice that number, 52 per cent, had a negative impression, leaving Ignatieff with a net score of minus 26.

Almost the same number -- 51 per cent -- had an unfavourable impression of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. But he was viewed favourably by 42 per cent, for a net score of minus nine.

The ratings for the two leaders have remained largely unchanged since early March.

By contrast, NDP Leader Jack Layton scored a net rating of plus 10, with 46 per cent holding a positive view and 36 per cent a negative view.

In Quebec, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe scored a whopping

plus 20, with 52 per cent viewing him favourably versus 32 per cent unfavourably.

Green Leader Elizabeth May was viewed positively by 28 per cent, negatively by 32 per cent, for a net score of minus four.

Harris-Decima chairman Allan Gregg said Ignatieff's continuing poor leadership numbers help explain why Harper's Conservatives have managed to maintain their lead in the overall polls despite recent controversies over disgraced cabinet minister Helena Guergis, the treatment of Afghan detainees and abortion policy.

Indeed, Harris-Decima found national support levels essentially unchanged, with the Tories at 32 per cent, the Liberals at 28, the NDP at 17 and the Greens at 11.

"You really have to ask yourself if there isn't an Ignatieff drag problem that is plaguing the Liberals," Gregg said in an interview.

"When you have as much disapproval, unfavourable impressions, it isn't indifference. It's something deeper than that."

Gregg said it may be that the Tory portrayal of Ignatieff -- as an "out of touch, effete, Central Canadian snob" -- has taken hold among voters.

Whatever the reason, he said it's not normal for an opposition leader to be viewed more negatively than a sitting prime minister, particularly when that prime minister is not hugely popular himself.

"Opposition leaders usually do not evoke strong negative feelings, so it's very unusual," he said.

The poll suggest the Tories were statistically tied with the Liberals in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces and leading everywhere else, except Quebec.

In Quebec, the Bloc was miles ahead of its competition, with 40 per cent support compared with 20 per cent for the Liberals, 14 for the Conservatives, 13 for the Greens and 10 for the NDP.

In Ontario, the Liberals had 38 per cent to the Tories' 35, the NDP's 14 and the Greens' 12.

In the Atlantic, the Liberals had 36 per cent to the Tories' 34 per cent, while the NDP had 24 and the Greens four.

In British Columbia, the Tories were at 36 per cent and the NDP at 30, while the Liberals lagged in third with 20. The Greens had 12 per cent.

The Conservatives enjoyed 47 per cent support in Manitoba-Saskatchewan, more than double the Liberals' 23 per cent. The NDP were at 20 per cent and the Greens at eight.

The Tories also held a commanding lead in Alberta, with 51 per cent to the Liberals' 20, the NDP's 13 and the Greens' 11.

For the data on party support levels, Harris-Decima conducted a telephone survey of 2,007 Canadians from May 6-16. A survey this size is considered accurate within 2.2 percentage points, 19 times in 20.

The margin of error is larger for regional breakdowns.

For the leadership data, Harris-Decima surveyed 1,007 Canadians from May 13-16. A sample this size is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times in 20.