Prime Minister Julia Gillard remains the popular choice among voters as Australia's prime minister but the trouble is she would easily lose out to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, the last Newspoll-News Ltd 2012 survey said.
Ms Gillard will close out her year-long match with Mr Abbott on top, keeping her for nine notches away by ending the last 12 months of fierce political tussles on a high note. Newspoll said on Tuesday that 43 per cent of Aussies would vote for the country's first female prime minister. The Coalition leader only got 34 per cent.
But there's the rub. Australian voters do not directly send the nation's top leader into office the way the U.S. presidents are elected. Political parties do the honours for them and they need as many MP supports as possible to do so.
In Ms Gillard's case, her luck next year may not be bright as it was in the past few months, in which time Labor saw its primary numbers reaching a high of 36 per cent, only to plunge to a low of 32 per cent as 2012 marches to its last few weeks.
If the same trend is sustained next year, the federal government will be wiped out, political observers said, pointing to the Coalition's 46 per cent of latest primary support, which Newspoll said climbed by three points from the last outing.
And in the party preference contest, the Liberals will greet 2013 with the thought that it is eight steps ahead of the pack led by Ms Gillard. The Coalition rules in this turf too at 54 per cent while Labor only managed to garner 46 per cent.
So what went wrong for Labor when between September and November this year it gained enough traction that analysts said Ms Gillard and company has collected some fighting chance going into the federal election next year?
According to Newspoll chief pollster Martin O'Shannessy, the border protection issues seemed to have eclipsed all the sweet Labor offerings that the government dangled this year - the NDIS scheme, the education overhaul and all the other welfare-centric programs that the average Aussies would surely feel.
"It worked for them when it looked like the problem was solved and now it's not working for them," Mr O'Shannessy told the Australian Associated Press (AAP) on Tuesday.
Trade Minister Craig Emerson is convinced Labor's primary retreat was mainly caused by the recent Liberal attacks over the AWU controversy although he quickly noted that the Labor leader will reverse the results of this negative Coalition campaigns.
"(Ms Gillard) is still standing; she is a very tough and resilient prime minister and that is what the Australian people want," Dr Emerson told Sky News today.
Asked for comments on the latest Newspoll data, the prime minister simply pointed to the fact that Aussies will not base their 2013 decision on what happened the previous months and year.
"It'll be about Australia's future, and who's got the policy muscle to bring the solutions Australia needs in an uncertain world," Ms Gillard was reported by ABC as saying.
For his part, Mr Abbott dodged questions about the opinion polls but he allowed that Aussies were expressing their preferences, which mostly is about better living condition and effective governance.
"They want evidence that the government is focused on them, not focused on itself," Mr Abbott was quoted by AAP as saying.