Gillard, who criticised the leader of the opposition in a speech to parliament, saw her personal standing with both men and women rise by five points to 47 per cent in the poll. Her disapproval rating among men fell five points to 48 per cent.

Despite criticism of the speech in the mainstream media, social media largely praised the PM, in line with the new poll results.

John Stirton, director of polling at Nielsen, which conducted the survey, called it “a big jump.”

Forty two per cent of the population think Abbott is sexist, according to the poll – 45 per cent of women and 38 per cent of men.

“It is reasonably substantial if 42 per cent of the population thinks something,” said Stirton.

Only 17 per cent of those surveyed thought Gillard was sexist, in the first time Nielsen has polled the public on sexism.

 “The speech certainly hasn’t done the prime minister any harm,” said Stirton, adding that the improvement was in line with a trend over the past four months.

Gillard is now 10 points clear of Abbott in terms of preferred leader, but according to polling Labor would still lose an election by a margin of 52% to 48% if it were held now.

Gillard’s speech has been viewed by more than 2 million people online.

In her speech, the PM criticised Abbott for standing outside parliament in front of signs urging voters to “Ditch the witch” and others which described her as a “bitch”.

She told him that if he wanted to know what a misogynist in modern Australia looked like he should look in a mirror.

Abbott hit back by accusing Gillard of playing the gender card and of having double standards after she refused to sack Peter Slipper, now former parliamentary speaker, for sending vulgar text messages.

In the wake of the debate, Australia’s authorative Macquarie Dictionary broadened its definition of misogyny to include “entrenched prejudice against women” rather than “pathological hatred”.

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