25 Jun 2020

National rebounds in new poll, but still well behind Labour

6:55 pm on 25 June 2020

National's poll numbers have rebounded from their May lows, but the party still trails Labour by 12 percent, a new 1 News Colmar Brunton poll shows.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and National Party leader Todd Muller are going head-to-head in a political poll for the first time. Photo: NZME / RNZ

The latest poll shows 50 percent support for Labour (down 9 percentage points from a record high of 59 percent in the May poll), 38 percent support for National (up 9 percentage points from just 29 percent), while the Greens were at 6 percent, New Zealand First on 2 percent and ACT were on 3 percent.

In the preferred prime minister stakes, Jacinda Ardern had 54 percent support (down 9 percentage points from 63 percent last time) while new National Party leader Todd Muller has debuted with a rating of 13 percent support.

Judith Collins was on 2 percent (3 percent last month) and Winston Peters on 2 percent (from 1 percent).

Former National health minister Jonathan Coleman said the new poll showed the party now had a shot at the elections.

He told Checkpoint that Muller's numbers for preferred prime minister were as good as former leader Simon Bridges two years ago.

"Labour's taken some big hits in the last 10 days, even on health which they've been pretty strong on traditionally. They're now going to find as National moves the debate onto the economy ... things are going to get tougher."

He said Muller had been doing a good job and 12 weeks was plenty of time to release policy.

"This guy does appeal to National voters. This is going to end up being much closer than people might think."

Political commentator and former Green Party policy director Dave Cormack said National probably clawed back some of its original votes, but that wasn't enough.

"Todd hasn't really been inspirational or really anything, yet he's managed to get higher than Simon as preferred prime minister," he told Checkpoint.

"They keep saying National is the only party with an economic plan, yet when he's been asked what that economic plan is he's just blundered around and not actually had a plan."

Cormack said it would get harder for National.

"It's a good poll for everyone except New Zealand First."

Leading up to the poll

The results of the last poll which were revealed on 21 May showed National Party support had slipped to a disastrous 29 percent - its lowest level in 17 years. Then-leader Simon Bridges earned just 5 percent support as prime minister while Ardern enjoyed her highest rating ever at 63 percent.

A day later Bridges was rolled as leader and replaced by Muller.

As well as Muller's impact, there has been keen interest in the latest poll to find out if the government has taken a major hit in its popularity over its handling of the border issue in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the past two weeks there have been numerous reports of a lax attitude to supervising travellers returning to the country and placed in managed isolation in hotels in three cities.

The controversy was sparked when two sisters who arrived from the UK were released early on compassionate grounds without being tested for Covid-19. A few days later, it was revealed both had been diagnosed with the virus.

It has since emerged that 51 people out of 54 were allowed to leave before their fortnight was up on compassionate grounds - between 9 and 16 June - without being tested.

The opposition has been able to score plenty of points in its criticism of the way the government has handled the issue, and it has also demanded the resignation of Health Minister David Clark.

In the last poll the Greens had 4.7 percent support, New Zealand First was at 3 percent and Act on 2.2 percent - all under the 5 percent level needed to earn seats.

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Green Party leader James Shaw and NZ First leader Winston Peters. Photo: Pool / Stuff

New Zealand First in particular has been in the spotlight lately over issues such as Peters demanding that the trans-Tasman bubble should have started "yesterday", causing a rethink on a deal reached with Labour over fair rent reductions for businesses impacted by Covid-19 and the announcement yesterday that the Auckland Light Rail project is at a stalemate and will not be revisited until after the election.

NZ First is believed to have scuttled the light rail project in the meantime because it is worried about its escalating costs and the possible involvement of an overseas pension fund.

The Greens have been particularly annoyed by the light rail impasse, claiming it breaches their confidence and supply agreement with Labour.

The failure of the light rail project has given further ammunition to National to paint the government as non-achievers as voters look closely at the parties with the general election under three months away.

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