Julia Gillard's approval rating has risen significantly in the first public opinion survey since the Australian prime minister branded her conservative opponent, Tony Abbott, a sexist and misogynist.
The Herald/Nielson poll, carried out a week after Gillard's landmark speech to parliament, showed her personal standing among men and women improved by five points to 47%. It also showed her disapproval rating among men fell five points (three points with women) to 48%. "That's a big jump," said John Stirton, director of polling at Nielsen, which carried out the survey. "When politicians get a boost, five or six points is usually as much as it ever is." The poll showed 45% of women polled think Abbott is sexist, compared with 38% of men, averaging out to 42% of the population. "It is reasonably substantial if 42% of the population thinks something," said Stirton. Only 17% of those surveyed said they thought Gillard was sexist (women, 16%: men, 18%). It's the first time a Nielsen poll has asked a question about sexism. The poll also showed the prime minister is 10 points clear of Abbott in terms of preferred leader, but Labor would still lose an election by a margin of 52% to 48% (after preferences), if it were held now. Stirton said the improvement in Gillard's standing was in line with a trend over the past four months. But, he said, while it was difficult to attribute all of it to a single issue "the speech certainly hasn't done the prime minister any harm and her numbers continue to rise". More than 2 million people have viewed the video of Gillard's speech in which she told Abbott that if he wanted to know what a misogynist in modern Australia looked like he should look in a mirror. The prime minister also tore strips off Abbott for standing in front of signs outside parliament urging voters to "Ditch the witch" and others which described her as another man's "bitch". "I was offended by those things. Misogyny, sexism, every day from this leader of the opposition," Gillard said. In the days that followed the speech, Abbott accused Gillard of playing the gender card and of having double standards on sexism after she refused to sack the (now former) parliamentary speaker, Peter Slipper, for sending vulgar text messages. Much of Australia's mainstream media criticised Gillard's speech as a political disaster. By contrast, social media largely praised the prime minister, something more in line with the latest poll results. Following the heated debate on sexism and misogyny Australia's most authoritative dictionary, the Macquarie Dictionary, broadened its definition of misogyny to include "entrenched prejudice against women" rather than "pathological hatred". It brought it in line with the complete Oxford dictionary, which changed its definition in 2002.
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