David Shearer's big punt on bold new policy has failed to fire, with the latest Fairfax Media-Ipsos political poll suggesting he is having no impact on voters.
The poll shows Labour continues to wallow in the doldrums on just 31.6 per cent, a five-point slide from the start of the year. In contrast, National has emerged all but unscathed from a difficult few months to poll at 48.3 per cent - down about one point from May, but up more than four on the start of the year.
The Greens are on 12.3 per cent support, NZ First 2.8 per cent and the Conservatives 1.4 per cent, outpolling the other minor parties including ACT and United Future, despite being outside Parliament.
The result will plunge Mr Shearer's leadership further into question, and suggests the divisions laid bare over Labour's so-called "man ban" may have cancelled out any potential gains from bold new policy promises, including a ban on foreign speculators in an overheated housing market.
And he is not out of the woods yet - those divisions could resurface at the party's annual conference later this year, when party rank and file are likely to debate female quotas again. A loss in the long-held Christchurch East seat in a by-election later this year could put Mr Shearer under further pressure.
The poll was conducted during the period when a milk contamination crisis erupted, and when National was in the news over a housing package announced at its annual conference.
It also came on the back of a difficult few months for National, after its handling of the Henry inquiry was in the headlines.
Prime Minister John Key has also been under fire over his handling of legislation extending the powers of the Government Communications Security Bureau.
While those issues have had little impact on National's support, it appears to have worn away some of the gloss, with voters marking the Government down on its performance compared with May. Positive perceptions of Government performance dipped 4 points, while negative perceptions of its performance rose nearly 3 points.
But voters are also more optimistic about the future, a result that may have buoyed National's poll ratings.
For the third Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll in a row, more voters believe the country is heading in the right direction, at 58 per cent compared with 42 per cent who think it is headed in the wrong direction. The poll suggests there is not yet a mood for change of the sort that Labour faced in its final couple of years in office.
The poll surveyed 1011 people by phone from August 10 to 15. It has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent.
- The Dominion Post