There’s been a marked fall in support for an early election in the wake of the Gillard government shoring up its parliamentary numbers as the political year draws to a close.

New polling from Essential Research reveals almost half — 47% — of voters now believe the government should run full term, compared to 41% who want an election now. That’s a reversal of sentiment from as recently as September, when 48% of voters wanted an election and only 40% wanted the government to run until 2013.

Opinion is strongly partisan on the issue, with nearly three-quarters of Coalition voters wanting an election now, while 89% of Labor voters and 73% of Greens voters want the government to serve three years.

However, voters’ perceptions of the comparative competence of the major parties shows just how far Labor has to go in regaining the confidence of voters. While recent results seem to suggest Labor had at least staunched the damage to its brand of the last two years, the party still looks fatally flawed.

Essential asked voters which party they trusted to handle a variety of issues, and while Labor’s position on some issues has improved since the nadir of its fortunes in June, it still trails the Coalition on every issue except industrial relations. On the key issues that influence votes — economic management, health, protection of jobs and education — Labor trails the Coalition, often significantly.

Only 27% of voters trust Labor over the Coalition on economic management, compared to 45% who trust the Coalition (29%-47% in June); Labor trails the Coalition 31-34% on health (33-35% in June); it trails 32-35% on protecting jobs, which is a poorer result than the 35-35% of June, and on education it has gone backwards, from a small lead in June to trailing 34-36%. Labor has also gone backwards on water supply, where it now substantially trails the Greens (24%) and the Coalition (30%).

And despite the passage of the carbon pricing package, Labor has lost ground on climate change, while the Greens have extended their lead over the major parties (31% to 25% for the Coalition and 19% for Labor). And despite an interest rate cut last month and much speculation about whether the government’s fiscal policy would enable the RBA to cut rates again tomorrow, Labor still trails the Coalition on interest rates by 18 points — 24-42% — as it did in June.

On voting intention, there’s minimal change from last week: the Coalition is down one point to 47% and Labor is steady; the Greens have dropped a point as well, for a two-party preferred outcome of 54-46% to the Coalition.

There’s also a smidgeon of good news for the ever-complaining retailers, with 13% of voters saying they expected to spend more this year on Christmas gifts than last year, up from 10% last year, 11% in 2009 and up from 3% in the depths of the GFC in 2008.

But 40% say they’ll spend less (compared to 38% in previous years), while 44% reckon they’ll spend about the same.