Voters are continuing to give the Government the benefit of the doubt when asked where to sheet home blame for New Zealand's economic problems.
The latest Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll asked people whether they agreed that New Zealand's economic hardship was mostly due to the global economy and 56.5 per cent of people agreed, while 29.9 per cent disagreed.
When asked whether Government policies were mostly to blame, 46 per cent of people still disagreed, compared with 40.9 per cent who agreed.
National voters overwhelmingly blamed the global economy, while 58 per cent of Labour supporters blamed Government policies.
Pollster Duncan Stuart said American President Barack Obama overcame a sluggish economy to win a second term largely because he was not blamed for the economic conditions. So the extent to which John Key's National Government was blamed for the present state of the economy would have a bearing on the next election.
The poll revealed rising concern about unemployment. It was the single most pressing issue selected by poll respondents.
Other issues high on the list included education and schools, and the economy.
"In the year ahead one of the battleground debates will centre on National's role in causing the current economic situation," Mr Stuart said.
"The Opposition will find some traction in laying blame on National and John Key."
In a wide-ranging interview, Prime Minister John Key said he believed the economy would start to turn in 2014, after a potentially rocky 2013, because of Europe and the United States.
"Next year I'm definitely glass half full . . . we've got a whole lot of domestic issues that help us, but it's not like next year we are going to wake up and all of a sudden the European problems are going to go away."
But he believed voters would rate the Government's handling of the economy as good.
"I think they are much more realistic than others might give them credit for . . . they're saving and repaying debt [themselves] because they are absolutely aware of the international situation, absolutely aware of what's going on. I think where we deserve a bit more credit is we are doing everything in our power to get back to surplus for all the right reasons and I think that [voters] again philosophically understand that."
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said the poll showed that "people understand it's a pretty tough world out there".
He acknowledged, however, that there was "a bit of an impatience there" for businesses to grow.
Labour finance spokesman David Parker said while the global economy was a factor, New Zealanders had "every right to feel aggrieved that some of the choices this Government has taken have made things worse rather than better".
- The Dominion Post
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