Cunliffe a Labour liability, poll shows
Labour would get an immediate lift in the polls if it dumped leader David Cunliffe, a new poll suggests.
The stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll reveals that Cunliffe may have become Labour's biggest liability, with a significant number of voters saying they would be more likely to vote for Labour if someone else were leader.
Click here for full poll results in graphics.
The effect is sizeable, making a 13.5 percentage point difference to Labour's vote.
Although a similar effect is seen on National when asked the same question about John Key, it is much smaller.
The finding will plunge Labour further into crisis after yesterday's poll result cementing Labour's support in the mid-20s.
Privately, Labour and the Greens now acknowledge that it would take an unprecedented swing against National to force a change of government on September 20.
Some Labour MPs were yesterday privately canvassing leadership options, even at this late stage.
But they believe Labour would be even more severely punished by such an outward sign of panic.
Labour's focus now has shifted to protecting its vote from further erosion, and preserving the seats of some of its up-and-coming stars, including Andrew Little, seen as a future leadership contender, and former teacher Kelvin Davis.
Even some of Labour's seasoned hands, including finance spokesman David Parker and frontbench MP Jacinda Ardern, could be at risk of losing their seats in Parliament if party support sank much lower.
Labour MPs are clearly convinced the party has suffered in recent weeks because of a series of headlines that took the focus away from what they saw as a successful alternative economic policy and Budget plan and a suite of popular education policies.
Those distractions included Trevor Mallard's moa resurrection, Nanaia Mahuta's musings about te reo in schools, Little's comments about the reversal of the burden of proof in relation to consent during rape trials, and being drawn into the Dotcom saga.
But they also included Cunliffe's own apology for being a man and his suggestion that opponents in the party were scabs - as well as what MPs saw as unfair treatment of his connection to property developer Donghua Liu.
* Over our last two polls we asked voters to consider the effect of a change in leader on their vote. When we asked the question about Cunliffe, Labour lost 1.7 per cent but gained 15.2 per cent from other parties and undecideds - a net gain of 13.6 per cent.
On our July poll survey that would see Labour's support rise from 24.9 per cent to 38.5 per cent.
* When we asked the same question about John Key National lost 5.3 per cent but gained 12.4 per cent from other parties and undecideds - a net gain of 7.1 per cent.
In both cases, alternate leaders were not provided, and we have assumed the new leader is no less supported than the current leader.