John Key takes a hit in integrity stakes
John Key may be riding high in the polls - but the gloss is wearing off after a string of personal stumbles.
The latest Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll shows 43.5 per cent of voters have a lower opinion of his truthfulness after a year of brain fades, and almost as many say their opinion of his trustworthiness has dropped in recent times.
Labour leader David Shearer fares a bit better, with people more likely to have an improved opinion of his vision, actions or policies, truthfulness and trustworthiness. But there was also a strong undercurrent of criticism about him being too negative.
Pollster Duncan Stuart says National may have a sizeable lead in the polls and Mr Key has had a Teflon reputation. But that was not the full story.
"Politicians are always skating on ice and what the data is showing is that John Key, smart skater that he is, is running on thin ice."
The same poll also asked people for the first time whether it was time for a change of government - and 49.1 per cent said yes. That was surprising because even some people who said they would vote for National thought it was time for a change.
The poll was taken immediately after Finance Minister Bill English's fifth Budget and followed scandal over National MP Aaron Gilmore, who eventually resigned after a string of allegations as a result of a boozy night out in Hanmer Springs.
But it also comes after a series of stumbles by Mr Key over the Government Communications Security Bureau, including his involvement in the appointment of director Ian Fletcher.
The poll asked voters whether their opinion of the Government and the Opposition had gone up, stayed the same or gone down recently, and revealed opinion toward the Government had moved markedly downwards.
Yet, National's support rose in the same poll, to 49.4 per cent. That means the mood for change is hardly good news for Labour - while people were increasingly disappointed with the Government, they were even more disappointed with the alternative, Mr Stuart said.
Five people felt worse about the Government for every one whose opinion of its performance had improved.
"The results point to an outlook for the Government that is more fragile, more volatile than the healthy nominal lead in preferred vote might suggest."
Mr Key's performance was part of the problem. Even people who voted National in the last election were revising their opinions of him downward, Mr Stuart said.
"Of course voters for other parties feel even less impressed lately toward John Key, but it is the lukewarm results amongst his party faithful that sound a warning."
Robert, a pensioner questioned by our pollsters, said he voted National last time but would vote Labour in 2014.
"I don't like the current prime minister, he seems like a dictator."
Another voter who supported National in 2011 said she was now reconsidering her vote.
"I think John Key has been shooting his mouth off without due consideration."
But Mr Stuart said opinions about Mr Shearer showed there was also wide disgruntlement with the Opposition.
In a cross-section of voters, many of the same themes emerged - Mr Shearer did not look like a future leader, he "just rattles on" and "when they [the Opposition] start talking there is no substance".
There was also an undercurrent of unease about the Greens "leading Labour". One voter noted: "They can't keep their fingers out of their business."
The poll questioned 1037 randomly selected people between May 19 and May 23 and had a margin of error of 3.1 per cent.
The Dominion Post