SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's sinking popularity has plumbed new depths and her Labor Party faces electoral oblivion, an opinion poll revealed on Tuesday, a week after she suffered a major setback on immigration policy.
Gillard, in the top job for barely a year, has been under siege from the conservative opposition over her plans for new taxes and for dealing with asylum seekers. She is now fending off media speculation of an eventual leadership challenge.
The Newspoll, in The Australian newspaper, found nearly 70 percent of respondents were unhappy with her performance, the worst such rating of any modern prime minister since Labor's Paul Keating during the deep recession of the early 1990s.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott now eclipses Gillard as preferred leader, by 57 percent to 24 percent, said the Newspoll, which was conducted last weekend just after a court struck down her policy of sending asylum seekers to Malaysia.
Political commentators says the only comforting facts for Gillard are that another general election is not due until 2013 and that her minority government still retains solid support from independent and Green allies in parliament.
In addition, they say, Labor party powerbrokers are reluctant to replace her little more than a year after tearing down her predecessor, Kevin Rudd.
(Reporting by Mark Bendeich; Editing by Ed Davies)