The National Party has taken a 4.5 percentage point hit since the departure of former Prime Minister John Key on December 5 but the Labour Party continues to poll below 30% despite a 5.5 percentage point jump in support, according to a regularly volatile opinion poll conducted by Australian pollster Roy Morgan.
In the month since the previous Roy Morgan poll, which put National at 50% and Labour on 23%, National has dropped to 45.5% support and Labour jumped to 28.5 percent. Combined with the Greens, unchanged at 14.5%, a centre-left coalition commands 43% support, just short of National.
Winston Peters' New Zealand First party was down half a point to 7.5% support.
The poll may not capture the full impact of the change as the sample of 872 landline and mobile telephone users started on November 28, a week before Mr Key resigned and covering Labour's trouncing of National in the Mt Roskill by-election, on December 3. It ended on December 11. Of all electors surveyed 5.5%, down one point, didn't name a party.
The Roy Morgan poll is the first long time series poll to come out since Fairfax Media did a snap poll on the evening of December 5, just after Key announced he was leaving politics, leading to his replacement by Bill English and the appointment of a new cabinet last weekend.
"If a New Zealand election were held now, the latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows it would be a very close result," the polling agency said.
Among the government's three support partners, the Maori Party slipped half a point to 1% support, Act fell half a point to 0.5% and there was no measured support for United Future.
Roy Morgan also measured a hit to the government confidence rating, which fell 10 points to 131. New Zealanders saying the country was "heading in the right direction" fell 6.5 percentage points to 58.5% while pessimists rose by 3.5 percentage points to 27.%.
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