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Surging female vote gives Australia PM poll lead

Gillard's lead over Abbott as preferred leader was a whopping 28 points among women while 14 points among men. -AFP

Sat, Jul 24, 2010

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's ruling Labor party led the election race with a comfortable margin at the end of the first week of campaigning, polls showed Saturday, buoyed by a surging female vote.

Women preferred Prime Minister Julia Gillard's Labor party to the conservative Liberal/National coalition 58 percent to 42 percent, compared with a 50-50 split among male voters, a Nielsen poll showed.

The rallying female vote, which increased by two percentage points over the first week of the election campaign, helped Labor secure an eight-point lead over the conservatives, 54 percent to 46 percent.

"There is a real gender gap in this election," poll director John Stirton told Fairfax newspapers.

Australia's first female leader, Gillard outstripped conservative challenger Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister 55 percent to 34 percent, with an approval rating of 56 percent to Abbott's 43 percent.

Her lead over Abbott as preferred leader was a whopping 28 points among women, compared with 14 points among men.

Of the 1,400 people polled 73 percent said they thought Labor would win, with only 16 percent backing Abbott's coalition.

Gillard was pragmatic about the findings, saying her job "over the next four weeks... is to be out there making our case."

"And I'll be making my case to the Australian people -- to men and women -- around the country," she said, campaigning in the country's north.

Catholic Abbott's staunchly conservative views on issues such as abortion have earned him a bad reputation with some female voters, and he was eager to declare that his life was "full of strong women" on Saturday.

The poll shows Labor trailing the coalition 46 percent to 54 percent in the key battleground states of Western Australia and Queensland -- heartland of the resources industry -- following a damaging tax row with miners.

Labor's two-month standoff with the powerful mining lobby led the party to dump former prime minister Kevin Rudd in favour of Gillard, his deputy, in a bid to reverse a slump in its popularity.

The Nielsen poll found 69 percent of voters disapproved of the way Rudd was deposed, and 25 percent said they were less likely to vote Labor as a result.

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