Support for Jacinda Ardern has dropped to its lowest level since she became New Zealand’s prime minister in 2017, as the country reckons with higher living costs and a Covid-19 outbreak.
While Ardern remains New Zealand’s preferred prime minister by a significant margin, her support had dropped four points in the latest 1 News Kantor poll, to 35%. The result is her lowest since just before the 2017 election, when Ardern began her tenure. Her counterparts on the right are still tailing by a significant margin, but new National leader Christopher Luxon had made substantial gains, up 13 points to 17%.
The polling took place in a time of turmoil and change in New Zealand’s Covid response, as the country reckoned with its first cases of Omicron spreading in the community, and on the tail end of a small but persistent Delta outbreak. On Thursday, the country reported 34 new cases of Omicron – but with cases cropping up at weddings, airports, a music festival and at least three cities, officials expect the country to be detecting 1,000 a day in the coming weeks.
Ardern told 1 News that the latest results were “still a really strong showing for us as government despite some really hard calls having been made, but calls that have put us in the best possible position to continue to take on this pandemic”.
“When I reflect on the last six months, it has been a really hard period for New Zealand and we have had to make some really hard decisions, but those are still decisions I absolutely stand by.”
The poll also found many New Zealanders were feeling pessimistic about their economic outlook – 49% thought the economy would get worse, versus 22% better. That metric has undergone a steady decline in economic optimism over the past two years, and comes as an increasing portion of New Zealanders are locked out of a runaway housing market, and facing rising living costs alongside relatively stagnant wages. On Thursday, inflation hit a 30-year high of 5.9%.
Support for the Labour party more broadly was holding steady at 40%, down one point. With that result, Labour could still form a government with traditional coalition partners the Greens, who held 9%.
The biggest shifts came on the right, where the National party, under new leadership, had clawed back some support from the libertarian-right Act Party, which had flourished while the centre-right floundered. National was up four percentage point to 32%, whereas Act was down three, to 11%.