Labor's opening salvo for election year 2013 appears to have exceeded the ruling party's expectations as the latest News Ltd-Newspoll survey showed the government to a record high 38 per cent of primary vote, boosting its support by an impressive 6-point jump.
The Coalition, on the other hand, saw its lead trimmed down by two points to 44 per cent, leaving only six notches before the pack of Prime Minister Julia Gillard catches up to the once walloping Tony Abbott herd.
After preferences, Newspoll said 51 per cent of the 1152 respondents queried by phone expressed support for the Liberal-National partnership though Labor is not too far behind at 49 per cent. The Coalition's lead in this department was shaved off by three percentage points, said the year's first survey instalment published by The Australian.
Pitting Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott, the prime minister still emerged as the popular choice, chalking up another two points to 45 per cent in the preferred prime minister contest while the opposition leader remains lagging at 33 per cent.
However, overwhelming voters' approval remains elusive for the two chief contenders of Australia's top job with the incumbent Ms Gillard getting the best of the pittance that Aussies were willing to give what analysts perceived as two unpopular party leaders.
The prime minister garnered satisfaction and dissatisfaction ratings of 38 and 49 per cent respectively, leading to a net satisfaction rating of negative 11 per cent - an improvement from the last count that was made public four weeks ago, Newspoll said.
The vacationing Mr Abbott saw his net rating way too far from his main nemesis at minus 29 per cent, no thanks to his satisfaction and dissatisfaction ratings of 29 and 58 per cent respectively.
The latest figures are in support of political views in late 2012 that the perceived easy win of the Coalition come the 2013 federal election has been largely erased. It will be a much more interesting and exciting derby between Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott, political analysts said, adding that leadership upheavals could still inject more drama in the months ahead.
While the prime minister has largely staved off challenges to her hold on the Labor leadership, after sending former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to the backbench in early 2012, Mr Abbott must deal with rising perception that his style of leadership could hurt chances by the Coalition to regain federal government power after the Labor sweep in 2007.
In a weekend statement, Ms Gillard declared that she's raring to slug it out this year, upbeat that her plans of pouring billions into fresh educational funding scheme and disability insurance initiatives would win the hearts of many Australians during crunch time.
She expressed confidence that Labor will pocket re-election in a bid to extend its reign later this year.
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