National's welfare plans popular

03:48, Nov 09 2011
Fairfax Media-Research International poll: policies
Fairfax Media-Research International.
Fairfax Media-Research International poll: policies
Fairfax Media-Research International.
Fairfax Media-Research International poll: policies
Fairfax Media-Research International.

National's plans to overhaul the welfare system appear to have struck a chord with voters, with a new poll showing even some Labour and Greens voters support the changes.

National last week released its long-awaited welfare policy which aims to move 46,000 people off benefits and a further 11,000 into part-time employment by restructuring benefit types and requiring more people to look for work.

The changes, which focus particularly on solo parents and include forcing beneficiaries who have a subsequent child on welfare to look for work when their baby is 12 months old, are expected to save $1 billion over four years.

A new Fairfax Media-Research International poll shows the announcement made 52.8 per cent of voters more likely to vote National.

A further 20.7 per cent were less likely to vote National and 25 per cent said it made no difference, with the remainder in the "don't know" category.

When broken down on party lines, 78.2 per cent of National voters were more likely to vote National, but a surprising 21.8 per cent of Labour voters and 25.9 per cent of Green voters were also more likely to vote National.

Labour had hoped the Government's welfare policy would turn voters off National but the poll shows it is support for Labour which has plunged; it is down 5.4 points to 25.9 per cent while support for National remained almost unchanged on 52.5.

Left-wing voters appear to be shifting their support to minor parties, with the Greens up 2.9 to 12.6 per cent and New Zealand First up 1.3 to 2.8 per cent.

The poll also asked voters what they thought of Labour's plans to raise the retirement age gradually from 65 to 67, and make KiwiSaver compulsory and increase employer contributions to the scheme.

It found those policies were more divisive.

Making KiwiSaver compulsory was more popular with 32.2 per cent saying they were more likely to vote Labour and 26.5 per cent saying they were less likely.

Raising the age of eligibility for superannuation was less popular with 20.7 per cent saying they were more likely to vote Labour, but 32 per cent saying they were less likely.

More people were indifferent about Labour's policies with 44.4 per cent saying raising the retirement age made them neither more nor less likely to vote Labour and 38.4 saying compulsory KiwiSaver made no difference.

Right-wing political commentator Matthew Hooton said Labour was to be commended for "accepting the obvious" about raising the retirement age.

"What the poll suggests is contrary to long-held assumptions by political commentators, this actually doesn't affect voting behaviour very much."

Left-wing political commentator Bryce Edwards said welfare was the perennial polarising issue in election campaigns and the poll showed National's policy had been successful.

"They did a very good job of packaging it in a way that it dog-whistled to those who want strong welfare reform, but for those who are looking for passionate conservatism, there was that element to it as well.

"Even it's opponents couldn't find that much to strongly disagree with."

The poll of 1000 voters was conducted between November 3 and 7 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 per cent.

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