Voters turned off by SOE, retirement policies

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 14:00 18/11/2011

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Two major policy planks of the election campaign are a turnoff to voters, new Massey University research shows.

Asset sales are proving far less popular than the party promoting them – National – but people are also unenthusiastic about Labour's plan to raise the retirement age.

While two new polls last night had National polling above 50 per cent, preliminary results from a Massey survey showed three-quarters of Kiwis were against asset sales.

The New Zealand Study of Values Survey 2011 showed 75.9 per cent of respondents were against "the Government selling off major assets".

The survey was not necessarily good news for the Left though, as 62.2 per cent were against increasing the age for entitlement to superannuation, a Labour Party policy.

Victoria University professor of political science Stephen Levine said Prime Minister John Key's popularity was preventing opposition to asset sales from hurting National in the polls.

Last night's TVNZ poll had National on 51 per cent while TV3 had the party on 50.2 per cent.

Prof Levine said several other polls had shown voters were "not enthusiastic about the idea of selling assets". That sentiment was not translating into a drop in support for National because voters were considering other factors.

Primarily, the other factor was Mr Key, he said. The prime minister was "the key" to National's popularity in the past three years.

But campaigning in Palmerston North yesterday, Labour associate finance spokesman David Parker said the gloss was coming off the prime minister's image.

Mr Parker pointed to the saga of Mr Key's cup of tea with ACT Epsom candidate John Banks and other events such as Labour's accusation that the prime minister lied to Parliament about advice from rating agency Standard & Poor's.

National Palmerston North candidate Leonie Hapeta said what the survey asked and what National was proposing were quite different propositions. The question had asked for views on "the Government selling off major state assets" whereas National was only planning to sell shares in four power companies.

Mrs Hapeta said National was proposing a "mixed-ownership model" where the Government kept 51 per cent of the shares in the power companies.

Mr Parker said changes to superannuation were needed and Labour had proposed increasing the age of entitlement from 65 to 67 by 2033.

"Within four years New Zealand will be spending more on superannuation than on education," he said.

Prof Levine said any changes to superannuation tended to be unpopular and it was unlikely Labour could sell people on the idea in the few short weeks of an election campaign.

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Full results were: 47.4 per cent of respondents were strongly against asset sales, 28.5 per cent were more or less against, 14.6 per cent were neutral, 8.1 per cent were more or less in favour and 1.4 per cent were strongly in favour.

Meanwhile 3.8 per cent were strongly in favour of raising the age of superannuation, 13.8 per cent were more or less in favour, 20.2 were neutral, 26.6 per cent were more or less against and 35.6 per cent were strongly against.

The Massey survey was sent to 2000 people selected at random from electoral rolls. About 43 per cent of participants had so far filled out and returned the 50-page questionnaire.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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