National leaving Labour in its wake

UNDER PRESSURE: David Shearer may be morphing from Mr Invisible to something worse in voters' eyes, Mr Negative.
UNDER PRESSURE: David Shearer may be morphing from Mr Invisible to something worse in voters' eyes, Mr Negative.

Labour has taken a big hit in the latest Fairfax-Ipsos poll, raising fresh questions about whether David Shearer can lead them to victory.

Halfway through its second term, Prime Minister John Key's National is riding high on 49.1 per cent support, up 4.5 percentage points since February, and would be able to govern alone.

Over the same period Labour had shed 4.4 per cent to 31.9 per cent, with respondents pointing to Mr Shearer as weak and negative, Ipsos pollster Duncan Stuart said.

It marks a sharp reversal from our February poll when the Left and Right were neck and neck.

The survey, taken in the days after the May 16 Budget, suggests an improving economic mood has lifted National's poll ratings.

The Government has confirmed a return to surplus next year, unemployment fell to 6.2 per cent in the March quarter and an improving housing market in Auckland and Christchurch is providing a feel-good factor.

That is supported by a big shift in the mood of the country, with 59.2 per cent thinking things are heading in the right direction, up from 52.2 per cent in February, against 40.4 per cent who think it is on the wrong track, down from 47.8 per cent three months ago.

Mr Key's decisive handling of the Aaron Gilmore furore and the aftermath of Labour and the Greens' power policy have also helped lift National's support.

The commotion around the Government Communications Security Bureau appears not to have damaged its standing.

The strongest negative responses to National came over asset sales, its handling of the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes and the general integrity and behaviour of Mr Key - seen by some as "smirky" - and his MPs.

"Christchurch is not a happy place," Mr Stuart said. The Government had managed to sell its message that its decisions were aimed at producing jobs, even when they were unpopular, such as the SkyCity convention centre deal, but many respondents did not see a strong job-creation message from the Opposition.

The poll result would give National 63 seats in a 124-seat parliament - enough to govern alone even if all the existing minor parties retained their seats.

The survey shows the Greens are holding steady on 11.2 per cent but the minor parties are being badly squeezed.

UnitedFuture, ACT, Mana and the Maori Party could muster just 2.1 per cent between them.

NZ First was well shy of the 5 per cent MMP seat threshold on 3.2 per cent and the Conservatives were becalmed on 1.6 per cent.


On Labour and David Shearer: 

‘‘The lack of a leader is what’s destroying them.’’

‘‘They could do better than David Shearer in charge – he is just not forceful enough.’’

‘‘They keep on knocking the other party instead of talking about what they want to do for the country. They need to be positive.’’

‘‘David Shearer has no substance. He just gets a little phrase and repeats it.’’

‘‘Well, I’m unimpressed with trying to regulate power. The whole policy is not going to do us good.’’

‘‘They’re not being an effective opposition and not taking advantage of their mistakes.’’

‘‘That whole thing where he didn’t declare his bank account.’’

On National and John Key:

‘‘John Key seems to have a very selective memory and I don’t like selling our assets to overseas buyers.’’ 

‘‘John Key has been shooting his mouth off without due consideration.’’

‘‘The Aaron Gilmore thing. The general attitude, the arrogant attitude.’’

‘‘We are moving to the West (of Christchurch) due to the earthquake and they are closing the schools in the West even when they don’t need closing.’’

‘‘He seems like a dictator. He lavishes on sport spending $27m on yachting.’’

‘‘I don’t like the idea of gambling. I think that’s a very bad decision.’’

‘‘There seems to be a network John Key works amongst. I don’t trust John Key.’’ 

Fairfax Media