David Shearer has battle to gain some colour
David Shearer is the invisible man of New Zealand politics.
Seven months after he took up the reins, voters say they still do not know the man who would be prime minister, raising questions about his effectiveness as Labour leader.
The first Fairfax Media/Ipsos political poll of 1000 voters showed nearly one in four voters couldn't think of two words to describe Mr Shearer when pressed, while nearly the same number again thought he was either invisible, or inexperienced.
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He also scored badly in comparison to Mr Key on having a clear vision for the country - 33 per cent to 63 per cent.
He polled even worse on being a strong and effective leader - less than a third of Mr Key's score.
The one striking area in which he had a clear advantage over Mr Key was in being seen as working for all New Zealanders, rather than himself or the party - a view held by 54 per cent of people, compared with just 43.1 per cent for Mr Key.
Ipsos research director Duncan Stuart said some supporters felt optimistic that Mr Shearer would prove as strong as they hoped, but based on the evidence so far "many others judge Mr Shearer to be weak".
"If the voters are sending him a message, it is that he needs to move his narrative forward. It has been many months since he was elected to his role but he's largely unknown."
It is a view shared by Auckland University political scientist Raymond Miller. "There are still question marks over David Shearer's leadership. They are still getting shadowed by the Greens."
Gordon Fenwick, 64, a Wellington National Party supporter, said Mr Shearer seemed to have "a bit more sense" than his colleagues but was inexperienced.
"He is just a drip. He just comes across as totally wet. He doesn't really inspire any confidence, he hasn't got any charisma."
Tracey, 48, of Auckland said: "I must admit I have no views on him. He's sort of a nondescript sort of man, I think."
Some Labour voters thought the same: "Untried, nice but unsure, invisible, maybe more honest, and don't know anything about him", were the first words that sprang to mind for the first five we surveyed.
Mr Shearer said he was not surprised that almost a quarter of voters did not feel they knew him well enough to comment on him.
"It's been a relatively short time in the job and my political profile before that was not very high."
He was making a conscious effort to lift his profile by travelling around the country. The positive comments about him provided a good base to grow from. "I would like to be thought of as someone people can trust."
Political commentator and former Labour president Mike Williams said the low profile was predictable - it was normal for opposition leaders to struggle for the oxygen of publicity.
"He is very saleable. He has a gallantry award from the United Kingdom. It catches on slowly. And only a tiny fraction of the electorate think about politics every day."
But for now Mr Shearer was doing all he could and had won over "soft" supporters in caucus of his former leadership rival David Cunliffe.