TONY ABBOTT has attributed his latest popularity plunge to ''nasty, personal'' attacks by Labor, as Liberal MPs confided their leader needed to cut down his media appearances to soften his own reputation for negativity.
Commenting after the latest Newspoll showed his satisfaction rating had hit a personal low, Mr Abbott sought to project a positive demeanour and said he would not stoop to the ''nasty, personal commentary'' of Labor.
''Every day I'm talking to the people of Australia about what we in the Coalition can do to improve their lives,'' Mr Abbott said in Kevin Rudd's seat of Griffith, where he was launching the campaign of the Liberal candidate, Bill Glasson. ''I just want to talk about how we can be a better country, how we can give new hope to the Australian people, how Australians can be their best selves in the years to come.''
Mr Abbott has been singled by the government in recent months. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has labelled him a misogynist and sexist. The Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, is fighting back against Mr Abbott's claims about the carbon tax, describing them as ''complete bullshit''.
But Liberal MPs believe Mr Abbott, who has started to cut back on his daily media appearances, has suffered because of his attack skills and needs to leave more of the attack politics to his deputies.
The shadow attorney-general, George Brandis, said Mr Abbott had taken a personal hit for his targeting of the government but, importantly, had put the Coalition in an election-winning position.
The latest Newspoll, published on Tuesday, showed Labor within striking distance of the Coalition, trailing in a two-party-preferred basis by 51 per cent to 49 per cent. Mr Abbott's satisfaction rating fell to 27 per cent, while his dissatisfaction rating is 63 per cent.