Poll: New Australia prime minister's popularity is growing while opponent plumbs new low

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CANBERRA, Australia — Australia's new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's popularity is growing while the opposition leader Bill Shorten's popularity has reached a new low, according to an influential opinion poll published on Tuesday.

The poll by the Sydney-based market researcher Newspoll validates the ruling Liberal Party's decision to dump Turnbull's unpopular predecessor, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, ahead of elections late next year.

Since Turnbull ousted Abbott in a leadership ballot of government lawmakers on Sept. 14, the center-right leader's popularity has tracked up in three successive Newspolls.

Shorten has gone from a position where he was the public's preferred choice as prime minister over Abbott, to fall further behind Turnbull in successive Newspolls.

The Newspoll published in The Australian newspaper on Tuesday found 63 percent of respondents chose Turnbull as their preferred prime minister. Only 17 percent preferred Shorten, who leads the center-left Labor Party.

The poll also found that Turnbull's coalition was preferred by 52 percent of respondents and Labor by 42 percent.

The poll was based on a nationwide weekend survey of 1,606 voters. It has a 3 percentage point margin of error.

Newspolls are conducted every two weeks and are a trusted barometer of Australian politics.

When Turnbull announced he would challenge Abbott's leadership, he pointed out that the government had "lost 30 Newspolls in a row. "

"It is clear that the people have made up their mind about Mr. Abbott's leadership," Turnbull told reporters.

While commentators say the change of prime minister has put Shorten's leadership in doubt, Labor figures explain Turnbull's popularity as a temporary honeymoon period typical of new leaders.

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