The latest Essential Research survey confirms the picture of last week’s Newspoll in showing a decline in Tony Abbott’s popularity, but essentially no change in voting intention. Labor has in fact lost its 51-49 lead on two-party preferred, but the primary vote figures are all but unchanged with the Coalition steady on 44 per cent, Labor down a point to 40 per cent and the Greens up one to 9 per cent. Tony Abbott’s approval rating is 39 per cent, down four points on when the question was last asked in the September 20 poll, while his disapproval is up seven points to 45 per cent. Julia Gillard on the other hand is steady on both approval (45 per cent) and disapproval (37 per cent), and her lead as preferred prime minister has widened from 47-35 to 49-33. Questions on expectations for the economy, personal financial situation and job security find respondents leaning towards optimism, while one on the Murray-Darling Basin has 36 per cent believing the government should purchase water rights from irrigators willing to sell rather than leave existing water allocations in place or compulsorily buy water rights from irrigators and farmers (17 per cent each).