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Way to go for National to form next Government

Editorial

National has overtaken Labour in three major polls by different pollsters over three months now, ending a two-year run of dominance through the pandemic where Jacinda Ardern’s party rode a wave of gratitude and popularity — while the Opposition was in disarray.

That wave delivered our first majority government in the MMP era, when Labour captured 50.01 percent of the party vote in the October 2020 general election.

The tide has turned along with public concern over the pandemic and support for its restrictions — ironically thanks to our high immunisation rate and other effective public health measures, and the fact Covid-19 has now swept through the country in the milder form of the Omicron variant.

Pandemic worries have been replaced for many by the stresses of a rapid hike in the cost of living.

National leader Christopher Luxon and his party have caught this wave of discontent to edge past Labour, even as Ardern’s personal popularity remains high — but much reduced.

Last night’s Newshub-Reid Research poll had Labour slumping 6.1 percentage points from its last poll in February to 38.2 percent support, while National’s rise was even more dramatic, up 9.2 points to 40.5 percent. In the preferred prime minister stakes Ardern was down 7 points on 36.3 percent while Luxon was up 6.1 on 23.9 percent.

Last month’s Taxpayers’ Union-Curia poll had National up 2.5 points on 37.8 percent, just ahead of Labour which was up 0.6 points to 36.8 percent, while the latest 1News-Kantar poll in early March had National up 7 points on 39 percent and Labour down 3 points on 37 percent support.

There is a way to go, though, before National is in a position to form a government — and that is not just the 17 months until the next election and projections the inflation spike will be tamed by then.

Almost as interesting as the swing in public support for the two major parties is the fact all three recent polls have Te Paati Maori holding the balance of power, as long as it wins an electorate seat (in which case it would have three MPs based on 2.5 percent support in the latest poll). With Te Paati Maori continuing to rule out working with ACT (down 1.6 points on 6.4 percent), the centre-right parties need to out-poll the combined vote of Labour, the Greens (down 1.2 points on 8.4 percent) and Te Paati Maori to regain the Treasury benches.

And questions have mounted lately over Luxon’s performances when put under the political spotlight.