Support has risen for the Jacinda Ardern-led Labour party for the first time in almost two years, new polling shows – but New Zealand’s right bloc would still win an election held tomorrow.
A Kantar One News Poll released on Tuesday night found that Labour had halted its steady decline in popularity: for the first time in Kantar polling since December 2020, the party had a slight rise in support, up 1% to 34% of the total vote. Even combined with likely coalition partners the Green party, on 9%, and the Māori party, on 2%, the left would fall short of being able to form a government.
The right bloc, made up of the centre-right National party, on 37%, and Libertarian Act party, on 9%, could form a government without needing additional coalition partners.
The Kantar poll echoes August polling by Roy Morgan which found that after a year of trending downward, support for Labour had risen slightly, to 35%, neck in neck with National’s 35.5%.
The years-long downward trend is partly a result of the unusual heights Ardern’s Labour had reached. Labour reached stratospherically high popularity during the Covid pandemic, when New Zealanders were broadly impressed with its crisis leadership. In December 2020, it polled at 53%, a highly unusual result for any single party in New Zealand’s coalition-based electoral politics.
Since then, however, the party’s popularity has been in decline – slowly at first, and more dramatically as cost of living and petrol prices spiked in the last year, and after the opposition National party appeared to conclude its years of internal chaos with the selection of a new leader.
Speaking to TVNZ, Ardern appeared to attribute the rise in support to the government scrapping the last of the Covid protections earlier this month. There was “no doubt these have been tough times, but I am really proud of the way we as a nation have come through it, and I’m also really optimistic about the future”, she said.
On the end of most Covid-19 protection measures, she said: “You’ve seen very recently some significant changes that have been made, only a few weeks ago, that I think give cause for optimism in the future. Things, for instance, the fact we have certainty for the first time in three years coming into summer.”
With the next election due to take place sometime next year, the country’s economic outlook and cost of living are likely to be a primary contributor to the result. The incumbent government’s polling has dropped as New Zealanders have felt the pinch from high inflation levels of 7.3% and rents up 5% year-on year.
The opposition leader, Christopher Luxon, told TVNZ the poll showed “Kiwis are really hurting”.
“They’re very worried, they’re worried about a cost-of-living crisis, they’re worried about a rise in crime, and they’re worried about a healthcare system that’s falling apart on them,” he said.
Ardern remains in front of Luxon in the “preferred prime minister” stakes, polling at 30% compared with Luxon’s 21%.