Kevin Rudd has turbocharged Labor's vote, propelling it to equal favourite status for the election by eliminating virtually every advantage Tony Abbott had enjoyed over Julia Gillard.
The recycled Prime Minister has single-handedly wiped out the Coalition's two-party preferred lead to be dead-level at 50-50, the monthly Fairfax-Nielsen poll has found.
The result of an election held now would depend on individual seats and variation in swings by state.
Mr Rudd has also left Mr Abbott in his wake as preferred prime minister with 55 per cent of voters giving him the nod to just 41 per cent for the Opposition Leader. And the Prime Minister has become the first leader from either side in 2½ years to have more voters approving than disapproving of their performance.
The Rudd resurgence
Federal Labor has stormed back into contention as the 2013 election nears, but PM Kevin Rudd's sudden poll jump could prove fragile.PT2M40S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2pxz7 620 349 July 14, 2013
At plus-8 per cent, Mr Rudd convincingly leads Mr Abbott, whose net rating has drifted south to be minus-15 per cent.
The monthly survey of voting intentions shows a tidal shift of support back to Labor, its share of the two-party-preferred vote jumping 7 percentage points, and the Coalition's share dropping by the same amount.
It comes as Labor signals plans to scrap the carbon tax by going to a floating price a year early, and as it may reverse other unpopular Gillard-era decisions.
Reason to be cheerful: Kevin Rudd has clearly outstripped Tony Abbott as preferred PM. Photo: Paul Harris
Mr Rudd responded cautiously to the result, saying the government faces many challenges as it approaches the election.
''The truth is we face a marathon and we've barely run round the park so far,'' he told reporters on Monday during his visit to Port Moresby.
On Monday, Treasurer Chris Bowen said he believed Mr Rudd could win the election, even though the contest would be tight and tough for Labor.
''I certainly feel that we're very competitive,'' he told Fairfax Radio.
The poll is likely to fuel a renewed focus on Mr Abbott's low popularity and coincides with an admission by Malcolm Turnbull, the man Mr Abbott replaced as leader, that he is more popular.
''There are a lot of people out there who would rather I was leading the Liberal Party; it is ridiculous to deny that that's not happening,'' he told the Nine Network, while ruling out another tilt at his old job.
Mr Abbott on Monday played down the poll findings, saying the Coalition always expected polls would tighten.
He attributed the bounce in ALP's popularity to the outsting of Julia Gillard, who struggled in the polls, as prime minister nearly three weeks ago.
''We always thought that the polls would tighten,'' Mr Abbott told the Nine Network. ''What they're really doing is showing their relief at the departure of an unpopular prime minister.''
Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said the Coalition thought voters would see through ''the celebrity factor of Kevin Rudd and see that there is in fact no substance''.
''Australians don't want Kevin Kardashian as Prime Minister,'' Mr Hockey told ABC Radio on Monday.
Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop said Mr Abbott would make a fine prime minister and dismissed talk that Mr Turnbull would make a better party leader.
''Malcolm is an integral part of our team,'' she said, denying people have asked for the opposition communications spokesman to be reinstated as leader.
Much of the Labor recovery has come in NSW and Queensland, where the ALP brand has suffered most in recent years but where the potential exists to make the seat gains needed to secure a third term.
Labor's primary vote was a statistically significant 40 per cent in NSW and 42 per cent in Queensland. Its bounce-back comes despite the Coalition being more trusted to manage the asylum seeker issue with 20 per cent more voters favouring Mr Abbott’s uncompromising ''stop the boats'' approach.
While the Coalition’s primary vote has fallen three points since June to 44 per cent, Labor's has leapt by a staggering 10 points to 39 per cent, according to the survey of 1400 voters taken from July 11 to 13.
On a two-party-preferred basis, the main parties are locked at 50-50 – a situation pollster John Stirton described as ''too close to call''.
''The result of an election held now would depend on individual seats and variation in swings by state,'' he said.
The Greens also lost ground to Labor, the minor party's 12 per cent primary vote at the 2010 election slumping to 9 per cent – a two-point deterioration since June.
As the Rudd cabinet wrestles with asylum seekers, and a search and rescue mission was abandoned after another vessel sank, taking the life of an infant, voters continued to back the Coalition’s stance with 54 per cent favouring its policy to Labor's, which secured the support of one in three voters, or 34 per cent.
Women voters do not appear to have marked Mr Rudd down for toppling Ms Gillard and are in fact returning to Labor.
Forty-four per cent of women voters indicated support for Labor compared with 39 per cent support among men.