GhostWhoVotes tweets that the latest Newspoll has the Coalition two-party lead at 54-46, down from an aberrant 57-43 a fortnight ago. The Coalition is down four points on the primary vote to 44 per cent, which in fact returns them to where they were in the poll before last. Labor is up a point to 31 per cent, which is still a point shy of the previous poll, and the Greens are on 13 per cent, which compares with 10 per cent last time and 12 per cent the time before. Julia Gillard has consolidated the lead she opened up as preferred prime minister a fortnight ago, which ended five months of ascendancy for Tony Abbott: she is now up three to 43 per cent, with Abbott up one to 36 per cent. Gillard also has a less bad net approval rating than Abbott for the first time in eight months, with her approval up two points to 36 per cent (its highest in eight months) and disapproval up one to 56 per cent. Abbott is down one on approval to 33 per cent and up two on disapproval to 57 per cent, in both cases equalling his previous worst results and collectively producing his lowest ever net rating of minus 24.

UPDATE: Essential Research likewise has it at 54-46, unchanged from last week, with primary votes of 47 per cent for the Coalition (down one), 34 per cent for Labor (steady) and 10 per cent for the Greens (down one). Encouragingly for Labor, there has been a shift in sentiment in favour of the government seeing out its full term: support is up seven points since early September to 47 per cent, with “hold election now” down seven to 41 per cent. Less happily for them, a question on best party to handle 15 issues has Labor leading only on industrial relations, and then only slightly – the Liberals hold leads approaching 20 per cent for all economic questions, as well as “political leadership”. On the question of which issues will most influence vote choice, there has been little change since June.

UPDATE 2: Possum charts polling showing a shift in sentiment away from an early election:

However, the apparently radical nature of the shift from the first two polls to the last three is largely a function of the poorly framed question posed by Galaxy in the earlier cases, when respondents were offered the false dichotomy of “Gillard has a mandate for the carbon tax” and “an early election should be called”. Australia’s worst and least trusted major newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, used these obviously flawed results to run a front page lead claiming Australians were “demanding Julia Gillard call a fresh election” and an editorial headlined “voters demand a carbon tax ballot”. It will be interesting to see how the paper reports today’s contrary finding from Essential Research.