May 21, 2016 / 2:42 AM / 2 years ago

Australian PM's popularity slips in poll as tight election looms

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s popularity has fallen, just over a month before what is expected to a closely fought election, a an opinion poll published on Saturday showed.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stands outside Australia's Parliament House in Canberra May 4, 2016 following the announcement Australia's 2016-17 Federal Budget. AAP/Sam Mooy/via REUTERS

Turnbull’s conservative government remained neck and neck with the center-left Labor Party in the Ipsos poll, which showed the government leading with 51 per cent support to Labor’s 49 per cent.

However, Turnbull’s personal popularity as preferred prime minister fell four percentage points to 47 per cent, which is still above opposition leader Bill Shorten at 30 per cent.

Australians will vote on July 2 after an unusually long 74-day campaign.

Turnbull, considered a moderate in the conservative Liberal Party-led coalition government, had enjoyed high levels of popularity since he deposed his right-wing predecessor, Tony Abbott, in an internal party coup in September.

“Turnbull was expecting to run rings around Labor in this campaign and instead Labor have him in their sights,” said Peter Chen, a political scientist at Sydney University.

“He would be a very nervous man this morning.”

The election comes as Australia is trying to rebalance its economy away from a once-in-a-generation mining boom.

The economy, which remained relatively unscathed by the global financial crisis, has started to show signs of a slowdown in recent years.

Economic issues such as tax and the funding of education and health care have been front and center in the campaign, as well as the hot-button issue of asylum seekers and border protection.

Australia has seen a revolving door of political leadership in recent years. If Turnbull loses on July 2, the change in prime minister would be the fifth since 2010.

Reporting by Jarni Blakkarly; Editing by Sam Holmes

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