Nats/ Act in 'box seat' to form next government - poll

A National / ACT party coalition is in the ‘box seat’ to win the country’s general election in eight months' time, according to the latest polling data from Roy Morgan.

Almost half of Labour's support from its historic 2020 election victory is gone, with 27.5 per cent of those polled favouring the government, compared with 50 per cent at the last election.

National and Act have been large beneficiaries from the slide in Labour support, with National up 9.4 percentage points and Act up 6.9 points.

Support for Te Pāti Māori has tripled, up 2.8 points to 4 per cent from the previous election and the Greens have stemmed some of the flow from the Labour coalition, increasing their support 3.1 points since 2020, to 11 per cent.

National/ Act coalition support is, however, up 16.3% points to 49.5%, with a Labour/ Greens coalition well back at 38.5 per cent.

“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s decision to resign has come as a shock to many but the trends in voting intention over the past year showed Ardern was facing an uphill battle to win another term in office,” Roy Morgan chief Michele Levine says.

Consistent fall

“Today’s poll shows support for Labour  below 30% for the fourth straight month – and down by over 20 points since the 2020 New Zealand election just over two years ago.”

Levine says the tide turned against the former prime minister and Labour with the extra Covid-19 lockdown in Tāmaki Makaurau.

“Labour gained the support of a majority of the electorate (50.01%) in 2020, the first party to gain an outright majority since the ‘Mixed Member Proportional’ (MMP) voting system was introduced in 1996.

“Since that record high, there has been a consistent decline. The decline accelerated as Auckland entered lockdown in October 2021, with restrictions continuing for several months.”

“The restrictions were in contrast to comparable countries around the world, which had largely relaxed restrictions earlier in 2021,” Levine said.

Since October 2020, confidence in the government has fallen to a record low, down 78 per cent in December polling. 57 per cent of people say the country is headed in the wrong direction, 32 per cent say things are headed the right way.

Hipkins may take the blame

Data for the latest poll is from December 2022 but Levine advises caution for those with hopes of a boost for Labour polling from the arrival of new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, saying there’s a chance some of the unpopular Covid decisions may be pegged on him.

“One factor that is likely to count against that hope is that Hipkins has had a prominent role over the past three years as the health minister and the Covid-19 response minister,” Levine says.

“All the decisions the Labour government took in relation to Covid-19 that turned out to be unpopular – particularly once other countries started to open up – are equally tied to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins.”

Sinking house prices and rising inflation mean Hipkins will also face a raft of his own problems.

“These economic indicators have many predicting a tough year for New Zealand. The median house price is already estimated to have fallen around 15% from its peak in November 2021 according to ANZ economists who are now forecasting a total decline of over 20%,” Levine says.

“There are just over eight months to go until New Zealanders face this year’s election and at the moment opposition leader Christopher Luxon is in the box seat to win that election, most likely in coalition with the centre-right libertarians of Act NZ.”

Public Interest Journalism