SYDNEY: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s popularity has surged following her aggressive speech calling the opposition leader a misogynist and a sexist, a poll showed on Monday.
In the latest Fairfax-Nielsen poll, Gillard has a 10-point margin as preferred leader over the man she savaged, Tony Abbott, in comments that went viral and won praise around the world.
Gillard, the nation’s first woman leader, is now seen as as preferred prime minister by 50 per cent of voters, up three points, while Abbott has slipped four points to 40 per cent. It is her biggest lead in 20 months.
While Gillard’s popularity has jumped, her ruling Labor party continues to lag the opposition in the two-party vote by 48 per cent to 52 per cent.
The nationwide telephone poll of 1,400 people was conducted a week after the dressing-down of Abbott and showed Gillard picked up numbers among both men and women.
Before the controversy, 48 per cent of men rated Abbott the best prime minister to Gillard’s 43 per cent. That has now reversed with more men favouring Gillard, who also has a 15 per cent lead among women.
Elections are due in Australia next year.
A fired-up Gillard accused Abbott of hypocrisy this month, saying she had been offended by many of his remarks over the years and she would not be “lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man”.
“I’ve had enough, Australian women have had enough. When I see sexism and misogyny I’m going to call them for what they are,” she said.
Her speech prompted a leading dictionary last week to broaden its definition of the word misogyny as debate raged about whether Abbott really had a pathological hated of women, which is the current basic definition.
Macquarie Dictionary editor Sue Butler said it would now include “entrenched prejudice against women” because usage of the word no longer refers just to a hatred of women.
Neither of the political leaders wanted to comment on the poll on Monday, but Finance Minister Penny Wong said it highlighted the fact that people were getting fed up with Abbott.
“I don’t comment on polls, but I would say that I think Australians are getting a very clear picture of the difference between the prime minister and Tony Abbott,” she said.
“About the prime minister’s clarity about what’s important for the country and her view about the future, and Tony Abbott, who really does nothing other than be aggressively negative.”
Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said: “I’m not sure if polls are always right.”