GhostWhoVotes tweets the latest monthly Nielsen result has the Coalition lead at 55-45 – an improvement for the government on 57-43 a month ago and their best Nielsen result since March, but shy of their form in other recent polling. This sits nicely with Possum’s recent finding that Nielsen has had a 0.9 per cent “lean” to the Coalition relative to Newspoll, Essential and Morgan phone polls since the 2010 election. The primary votes tell a familiar story in having Labor steady on 30 per cent but the Coalition down three to 45 per cent, with the Greens up two to 14 per cent. This chimes quite well with Newspoll’s respective findings of 32 per cent, 44 per cent and 12 per cent.

Where Nielsen differs is in showing a strong recovery in Julia Gillard’s personal ratings: up six points on approval to an almost respectable 39 per cent, and down five points on disapproval to a still fairly bad 57 per cent. She has also tied on preferred prime minister for the first time in a while, gaining a point to 45 per cent with Tony Abbott down three. Abbott’s ratings are exactly unchanged at 41 per cent approval and 54 per cent disapproval. As always, the poll was conducted by phone from Thursday to Saturday from a large sample of 1400, producing a margin of error of 2.6 per cent (assuming a random sample).

The poll also found support for a mining tax at 53 per cent with 38 per cent opposed, and that Gillard’s handling of the Qantas dispute had 40 per cent approval and 46 per cent disapproval. Michelle Grattan in the Age rates this “surprising”, but it in fact compares favourably for her with Morgan and Essential’s figures. Qantas’s actions had 36 per cent approval and 60 per cent disapproval, very much in line with Morgan and Essential, while the unions fared rather better on 41 per cent and 49 per cent. Grattan reveals the Victorian component of the result had the Coalition’s lead at 53-47 against 54-46 last time. I should have full tables available tomorrow. UPDATE: Here they are.

In other news, closure of Liberal preselection nominations for seats held by the party in NSW on November 4 brought forth a number of challenges to sitting members:

• The Goulburn Post reports Angus Taylor, “45-year-old Sydney lawyer, Rhodes Scholar and triathlete”, and Sydney restaurateur Peter Doyle are among a large field of entrants in Hume, where 72-year-old incumbent Alby Schultz’s future intentions remain unclear. The Post faults both Taylor and Doyle for being from Sydney (Doyle having been mentioned in the past in relation to Wentworth and Vaucluse) and notes the local credentials of three further candidates, “Mittagong accountant Rick Mandelson, Yass grazier Ed Storey and Yass-based IT executive and olive grower Ross Hampton”. The latter has also been a television reporter and has “an extensive CV as a political advisor and was press secretary to the former defence minister Peter Reith during the ‘children overboard’ days”.

• Bronwyn Bishop faces a challenge in Mackellar from Jim Longley, the state member for Pittwater from 1986 to 1995. Imre Salusinszky in The Australian rates Longley “the most formidable candidate she has faced in a preselection challenge”, but nonetheless says Bishop is expected to win.

• Imre Salusinszky’s report further notes that Mitchell MP Alex Hawke faces three little-heralded predators from the David Clarke side of the Right sub-factional divide – Dermot O’Sullivan, Michael Magyar and Robert Picone – but is “expected to survive”.

Krystyna Pollard of the Blue Mountains Gazette reports Louise Markus faces a challenge in Macquarie from Charles Wurf, state chief executive of the Aged Care Association of Australia. This event has not otherwise excited much interest.

UPDATE: Essential Research has two-party preferred still at 54-46, with the Coalition up a point on the primary vote to 47 per cent, Labor steadyon 35 per cent and the Greens up one to 10 per cent. Its monthly figures on personal ratings have Julia Gillard pulling ahead of Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister, turning a 38-39 deficit into a 41-36 lead. Her approval rating is up three to 37 per cent and her disapproval down five to 54 per cent, while Abbott is down four to 36 per cent and up one to 52 per cent. The occasional question on best party to represent various interests has also been asked, and according to Bernard Keane of Crikey it finds Labor pulling ahead on “families with young children, students, pensioners, indigenous people, ethnic communities” after doing no better than the Coalition in these traditionally strong areas a month ago.