Australia is actually witnessing a fierce battle being waged by two equally unpopular political leaders, one analyst said, essentially making the Julia Gillard-Tony Abbott tussle a contest of the best among the worst.
Consider Mr Abbott's latest approval numbers, based on the Fairfax-Nielsen opinion polls released on Monday, and Coalition supporters would likely be at the edge of their seats. The Opposition leader has become more unpopular with a disapproval rating of 63 per cent.
The Age noted that the Liberal leader has been wallowing on net approval rating of negative 20+ per cent since September this year, which was the same position occupied by the prime minister for the most part of 2011.
However, Ms Gillard gradually bolted away from her negative 23 per cent net approval rating in December 2011, which Nielsen said improved by 19 points as of Saturday last week. Her approval now stands at 46 per cent, 12 points ahead of Mr Abbott's 34 per cent
She also trumped her main political foe on the disapproval department, with about 50 per cent of those recently polled by Nielsen expressing dissatisfaction with the manner the prime minister has been conducting herself.
Almost naturally, Ms Gillard emerged as the nation's preferred leader with 50 per cent of Aussie voters picking her out over Mr Abbott, who only attracted 40 per cent of the votes. This has been the case over the past few months, which analysts said should sound an alarm for the Coalition because merely 12 months ago, the situation was on a reverse mode.
And why voters slowly turned away from the Coalition leader, as suggested by the Nielsen survey? Nielsen Director John Stirton is under the impression that Aussies were generally dismayed by the way Mr Abbott handled the AWU slush fund controversy, in which the prime minister was allegedly a direct party, as strongly insisted by the Coalition.
But the tactic appeared to blow right in the face of Mr Abbott, Nielsen said. Not only did voters cringed at the dogged resolve of the opposition to pin down Ms Gillard over the AWU affair but also 71 per cent declared they don't care that much about the whole issue.
The only consolation for Mr Abbot at the moment is the strong likelihood that the Liberal-National alliance will win if elections were held today, banking on a primary vote of 43 per cent as against to the government's 35 per cent.
After preferences, the Coalition remains ahead by six points at 52 per cent while Labor only managed to muster support of 48 per cent on the two-party skirmish.
The thought of enjoying an edge over Ms Gillard, in terms of securing the prime ministership job next year, must be in the mind of Mr Abbott when he dismissed insinuations that his grip on the Liberal leadership is weakening.
There is no need for a new man on the Coalition top post, Mr Abbott told reporters on Wednesday, because we are "doing the right thing by the people of Australia."
"We have been holding a bad government to account. We have been demonstrating that we are a credible alternative. We've been saying to the Australian people 'it can be better than this,'" the opposition leader was quoted by The Herald Sun as saying.
Yet for Treasurer Wayne Swan, the Coalition can never be sure of a victory despite the lead they currently enjoy.
What the opposition got is a leader "who is a policy weakling, and of course, a thug when it comes to personal attacks," Mr Swan told The Australian.
On the other hand, "we've got a prime minister who is tough as teeth, a prime minister who has got ideas for the future," the deputy prime minister added.
According to The Age, amidst the possibility that he'll become prime minister next year, Mr Abbott remains "under immense pressure to change the style and substance of his leadership," based on the latest opinion polls.
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