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Carbon tax, Rudd top year's news for poll respondents

THE implementation of the Federal Government's deeply unpopular carbon tax was the biggest story in an extraordinary year in politics, a survey has found.

Essential Vision's weekly report asked 1911 respondents to nominate the most significant event of the political year, with 41% identifying carbon pricing.

Interestingly, the scandals surrounding former parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper and former Labor backbencher Craig Thomson failed to make the list.

The opposition spent most of the first half of the year honing its attack on the carbon tax.

But its effectiveness as a political weapon diminished after the July 1 implementation as the predictions of economic armageddon failed to materialise.

Kevin Rudd's leadership challenge was voted the second most significant political event of the year, attracting 14% of responses.

In February, Mr Rudd ended months of leadership speculation when he quit as foreign minister and challenged Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

But the subsequent caucus ballot proved to be a non-event, as Ms Gillard won convincingly.

The remaining political events were: reopening offshore processing centres for refugees (9%); the AWU slush fund allegations (7%); Ms Gillard's sexism speech (6%); bipartisan support for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (5%); Australia winning a United Nations Security Council seat (5%), and; 13% said they didn't know.

Respondents were also asked whether Ms Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott would lead their parties into the next election.

It was almost an even split for Ms Gillard, with 39% saying yes, 40% saying no and 21% saying they didn't know.
Mr Abbott's chances of maintaining his grip on the Liberal Party leadership were good according to 38% of respondents, while 35% said he would not be there for the 2013 election and 27% were not sure.

The respondents overwhelmingly deemed 2012 to be annus horribilis for both leaders.

For the PM, 19% thought 2012 had been a good year, while 57% said it had been bad.

Just 15% judged Mr Abbott to have had a good year, with 52% saying it had been a year to forget.

Essential's weekly poll of voting intentions, which is based on a two-week average, had the Coalition extending its two-party-preferred lead to 55-45%.

Labor MPs would have derived a bit more comfort from the Nielsen poll published by Fairfax, which showed a small jump in support for the government.

The poll showed the Coalition's 2PP lead had narrowed to 52-48%, based on preference flows at the 2010 election.

Mr Abbott's approval rating slid two points to 34%, while his disapproval rating rose three points.

Neilsen director John Stirton said Mr Abbott's ferocious attack on Ms Gillard over the AWU matter appeared to have back-fired.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra Treasurer Wayne Swan said the government remained confident of winning the next election.

"We've got a Prime Minister who is tough as teeth, a Prime Minister who has got ideas for the future, and we've got an Opposition Leader who is a policy weakling, and of course, a thug when it comes to personal attacks," Mr Swan said.