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Polls pointing to election cliffhanger

Editorial

The first two political polls of the year are in and confirm that the September 19 general election looks set to be a cliffhanger, just as the final polls of 2019 did.

It also looks entirely possible that the good voters of Northland will decide our next government, with the 1News Colmar Brunton poll out last night having National and the Labour-Green block tied on 46 percent and NZ First on 3 percent — so out of Parliament unless it wins an electorate seat.

With no NZ First, on this poll result National would be able to form a government with ACT (on 2 percent) if David Seymour retains his Epsom seat in their usual accommodation.

However, if experienced and outspoken NZ First MP Shane Jones defeats first-term National MP Matt King in Northland, backed strategically by centre-left voters — as they did for Winston Peters in the 2015 byelection — on this result it would then be a return for the coalition of Labour, NZ First and the Greens.

However, the Green Party's hold on its seats looked tenuous, with support down 2 percentage points to 5 percent — the threshold parties need to get into Parliament. Labour was up 2 points to 41 percent, its first gain in this poll since July 2019, while National was steady on 46 percent. A significant 17 percent of the 1004 eligible voters polled from February 8-12 were biding their time — undecided — or refused to say who they would vote for.

The Newshub-Reid Research poll out on Sunday had National and Labour closer than they have ever been in the history of this poll. National was down 0.6 points to 43.3 percent, and Labour up 0.9 points to 42.5 percent. With the Greens on 5.6 percent (down 0.7 points), on this result it would be a Labour-Green government.

NZ First was down 0.4 points on 3.6 percent in the Reid poll; with a potential Jones victory in Northland bringing more NZ First MPs into Parliament on his coattails, it would be difficult to imagine Labour and especially the Green Party welcoming them back into a coalition when they are not needed.

Both polls showed what must be an encouraging bump for National leader Simon Bridges to 11 percent as preferred prime minister — up 1 point in the Colmar poll, to his highest result since May 2018 when he recorded 12 percent (Jacinda Ardern, however, was up 6 points to a commanding 46 percent support), and up 3.9 points to 10.6 percent and a first entry into double figures for the Reid poll (against 38.7 percent for Ardern, up 0.3 points).