Chief Minister Katy Gallagher is poised to be Australia's first Labor leader to keep office in more than two years when Canberra votes on Saturday.
Today's exclusive Canberra Times poll puts Ms Gallagher in a winning position with Labor retaining its seven seats in an unchanged Assembly, with six seats for the Canberra Liberals and the ACT Greens retaining balance-of-power status with four seats.
The polling also shows Ms Gallagher has opened up a commanding two-to-one lead over Liberals leader Zed Seselja in the preferred chief minister stakes with 54 per cent of the electorate preferring Ms Gallagher to Mr Seselja's 26 per cent.
Support for Ms Gallagher is even stronger among female voters, with 58 per cent of women preferring her in the Legislative Assembly's top job, compared to only 23 per cent preferring the Opposition Leader.
The Chief Minister reacted to the early polling results yesterday by saying Mr Seselja had staked his political career on a three-word slogan about rates, while the opposition leader dismissed Ms Gallagher's big lead as being due to a honeymoon with voters.
The Patterson poll shows Labor has picked up support in all three electorates, mostly at the expense of the Greens, and will hold its seven seats comfortably. The Greens have suffered a drop in support in both Brindabella and Ginninderra but appear set to boost their vote in Molonglo, and are expected to garner enough votes to retain their four MLAs with the help of Labor preferences.
The poll shows the Canberra Liberals have also increased their support in all three electorates but not by enough to capture any more seats in the 17-member Legislative Assembly.
The 7-6-4 result will leave Ms Gallagher almost certain to form minority government with the support of the ACT Greens.
An agreement between the cross-bench party and the Canberra Liberals is considered unlikely.
Labor has not won a state election since March 20, 2010, when the party won elections in South Australia and Tasmania. The island state elected a minority ALP government reliant on Greens support.
The ACT Greens are expected to win the last seats in both Molonglo and Brindabella on preferences with the poll predicting the Liberals will not perform strongly enough to have sufficient ''leftover'' votes to be competitive in the final count.
The poll was conducted by Patterson Research Group among 1203 voters, about 400 in each of the territory's three electorates, between October 11 and October 14.
The research found 10 per cent of voters remained undecided in Brindabella and Ginninderra and 7 per cent in Molonglo and their support was allocated among the parties and candidates using a polling formula.
In Brindabella, where Mr Seselja will run, Labor and Liberals have both boosted their vote and are running neck and neck with each on 43 per cent, while the Greens have slumped to 9 per cent from their strong 2008 showing of 14 per cent.
The retirement of veteran Labor sitting member John Hargreaves has not hurt his party's vote in the southern electorate, according to the poll.
The Australian Motorists' Party and Bullet Train for Canberra have each picked up 2 per cent of the vote while independents are expected to poll about 1 per cent.
The predicted result in the southern electorate is two Labor MLAs and two Liberals with one Green getting over the line with Labor preferences.
In Molonglo, the Liberals have improved their vote to about 30 per cent while Labor will poll up to 45 per cent in the Chief Minister's electorate and the Greens have boosted their support to 20 per cent from 14 per cent in 2008.
The poll predicts that Labor will win three seats in Molonglo, the Liberals will win two and the Greens will take one, all quite comfortably.
But a battle is looming between Labor and the Greens for the seventh Molonglo seat with stronger than expected showings in the central electorate from both parties likely to see them fight it out on preferences for Molonglo's final spot, with the Greens the likely winners.
In Ginninderra, where government support was expected to suffer after last year's retirement of former chief minister Jon Stanhope, the poll says Labor will pick up another 5 per cent to give it 45 per cent of the vote, while the Liberals will poll 36 per cent and the Greens' vote will soften slightly to 13 per cent.
Two Liberals and two Labor candidates will be returned from Ginninderra, according to the polling, with the fifth seat going to the Greens on Labor preferences.
The poll also showed that some of the key themes of the main parties, household rates and public service jobs, were rated as major issues by only a small number of voters, with health, education and leadership at the top list of the priorities in the electorate.
Minor parties and independents, who made a strong showing in 2008, are shown in the research to have a much diminished presence, with Chic Henry, of the Australian Motorists Party, the leading smaller player with a predicted 3 per cent of the vote in Ginninderra.
Patterson Market Research managing director Keith Patterson said he was surprised at the low level of support for the electoral minnows.
''The thing that surprised me most was how much voters are favouring Katy Gallagher over Zed Seselja and the fact that the minor parties are almost non-existent,'' Mr Patterson said. ''Four years ago, there was the Community Alliance Party that actually garnered a fair bit of the vote and it's disappeared altogether.''
Mr Patterson said he detected a movement among voters toward the two big parties but that that his results did not reflect general discontent in the electorate.
''You can read a lot into very small movements, but my sense is that there's a notion among people who typically vote for the major parties that it's better to vote for a major party rather than throw a spanner in the works with a Green element,'' he said.
''So there are people who might have voted Green but been on the cusp of voting Labor historically, who are now voting Labor.''
Despite a slight loss in support suffered by the Greens, the territory Hare-Clark electoral system was likely to help them retain their four-seat status. ''They [The Greens] do best in Tasmania and the ACT, the two jurisdictions that have the Hare-Clark system.''
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.