Labour's surge in the latest 1News-Colmar Brunton poll is, in part, driven by a feel-good "baby bump," political commentator Bryce Edwards says.
The poll has Labour up nine points to a 15-year high of 48% and National down 3 to 43%.
The Greens are down two points to 5% and NZ First down two to 3%. Minor parties are 1% or lower.
"The January announcement of Jacinda Ardern’s pregnancy was another magical moment in the prime minister’s rise to the top – and it’s been incredibly well received. It’s really helped foster that continued Jacindamania," Dr Edwards says.
The Victoria University academic says there was "solid political management" of Labour's first 100 days plan and this year's Waitangi celebrations.
"Somehow Ms Ardern pulled off an incredibly peaceful and successful Waitangi visit, which gathered plenty of great press coverage and good feeling. Her Waitangi Day BBQ was a particular highlight," Dr Edwards says. As ever, image matters.
Before Nat race but will impact it
The poll is largely not a reflection of National's leadership race, which as of this morning includes Steven Joyce.
Colmar Brunton says it was taken on February 10-14 (50% mobile, 50% landline), with 75% of people surveyed before Bill English announced his resignation.
"No one in National will be particularly surprised by the party’s support dropping three points. But it will give greater impetus to the need to find the “right leader” and Labour’s surge to 48% will heighten some panic in the party about how National can possibly knock out this government at the next election," Dr Edwards says.
"This might well push MPs to move away from choosing a 'status quo' candidate like Amy Adams or Simon Bridges.
"The poll result is therefore likely to help Judith Collins’ campaign – she’s the one who is campaigning the hardest on the need to be able to take on Ms Ardern and go hard against Labour. Her message might resonate strongly with her colleagues in the wake of this 'wake up call' poll for National."
Could new-entrant Steven Joyce be considered a status quo candidate?
"Yes, but he’s also a combative candidate like Ms Collins, which also will make him appealing under the poor circumstances," Dr Edwards tells NBR.
1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll (3/4): Preferred PM: Ardern 41%(+4), English 20%(-8), Peters 4%(-1) #nzpol
— Colmar Brunton (@ColmarBruntonNZ) February 19, 2018
Greens, NZ First under pressure
No one is going to be surprised at the decline in popularity for the two support parties in the government, says Dr Edwards, who predicted this pattern soon after election night.
"This is what seems to happen to every minor party in government. In fact, throughout our 21 years of MMP, every single minor party that has gone into government has come away with reduced popularity at the subsequent election," he says.
"So it seems to be an inescapable curse for all minor parties."
The flipside of being kingmaker is you're destined to disappoint roughly half your supporters.
In 1995, NZ First received 13.35% of the vote. After its fractious coalition with National, it received 4.26% in 1999.
Similarly, Winston Peters' party received 10.38% of the ballot in 2002 but, after supporting Labour, it fell to 5.72% in 2005 and a life-threatening 4.07% at the 2008 election.
He adds, "Nonetheless, this will have those parties worried. It could therefore have an impact on the Green Party co-leadership election campaign. Party members will want to know how the leadership candidates will address this perennial problem. The question might well favour Marama Davidson, who not being a minister, is already campaigning on her ability to be able to communicate and campaign to keep the Green Party’s brand not being overshadowed by being in government."
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