Shock poll shows New Zealand opposition leading ahead of election

In a phenomenon local media have dubbed ‘Jacindamania’, opposition candidate Jacinda Ardern has given the once moribund Labour Party a genuine chance of winning office in the September 23 election

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 6:30pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 11:08pm

New Zealand’s opposition Labour Party on Thursday took the lead in opinion polls ahead of next month’s election, continuing its resurgence under new leader Jacinda Ardern.

The widely respected 1News-Colmar Brunton poll put Labour on 43 per cent, two points ahead of the ruling National Party’s 41.

It is the first time Labour has polled better than National since 2006 and means the centre-left party’s support has soared 19 points since Ardern took over earlier this month.

The charismatic 37-year-old also edged ahead of Prime Minister Bill English as preferred leader, 34 per cent to 33.

In a phenomenon local media have dubbed “Jacindamania”, Ardern has given the once moribund Labour Party a genuine chance of winning office in the September 23 election.

The poll was released just an hour before the first televised debate between Ardern and English, with both leaders downplaying its significance.

“This is a bombshell,” said Bryce Edwards, political analyst at Wellington-based Critical Politics. “It does mean that this campaign has turned on its head.”

English said he believed National’s support was stronger than indicated in the survey, although he refused to disclose what internal party polling was showing.

“We’re seeing it bit stronger than that ... it’s clearly a close election, a drag race between the two major parties,” he said.

Ardern said she was taking nothing for granted and there could be further momentum shifts during the campaign.

“I’m certainly not going to decide that it’s a done deal right now,” she said.

“There’s been a huge amount of change in the last three to four weeks and it’s been in Labour’s favour, but it can turn in either direction.”

English took over the New Zealand leadership late last year after the shock resignation of the popular John Key.

While he is yet to replicate Key’s personal appeal, English has staked National’s hopes of a record-equalling fourth term on maintaining the same policies as his predecessor.

With the economy in good health and growing about three per cent a year, he said the election was a chance for voters to “build on our success”.

“We’ve got a track record on delivery, our opponents have got vague, high-level statements and not much detail,” he said.

Ardern said she wanted to see all New Zealanders share in the country’s prosperity, emphasising issues such as education, health and housing affordability.

“I believe that New Zealand can be better than it is, that we can achieve much, much more than we are now,” she said.

The 1News-Colmar Brunton poll surveyed 1,009 voters between August 26-30.

Additional reporting by Reuters