Saturday, 21 June 2008

STUFF: Fairfax media Neilson poll

Labour voters still believe Prime Minister Helen Clark is the best person to lead them into this year's election, despite the party's continuing poor performance in the polls.

The latest Fairfax Media-Nielsen poll shows Labour has closed National's lead by three points but is still well behind. Labour is up one point to 30 per cent in the June poll, while National has fallen two points to 54 per cent.

The Greens continue their rise, up one point to 7 per cent, while New Zealand First has slipped back two to 3 per cent.

The Maori Party is on 2 per cent and ACT and United Future 1 per cent.

The Government has also had a slight lift in the preferred-prime minister stakes, with Clark up two points to 30 per cent and National leader John Key down by the same amount to 43 per cent.

The Nielsen poll is the first to show any lift in Labour's fortunes since the May Budget and might provide hope to the Government that it has begun a recovery from the rock-bottom 29 per cent Labour scored in last month's Nielsen poll.

Labour may also take comfort from Nielsen's findings that voters do not see any alternative to Clark to lead the party into the election, with 52 per cent of all voters opting for Clark over her closest rival, Mount Roskill MP Phil Goff, who scored 12 per cent.

Leadership rumblings have surfaced several times in recent months, but Labour voters were emphatic, with 85 per cent plumping for Clark.

Only 5 per cent of Labour voters preferred Goff, while 18 per cent of National voters thought Goff a better leader for Labour.

Other leadership hopefuls barely rated a mention, with Shane Jones and David Cunliffe scoring 2 per cent and 1 per cent respectively.

The Press also asked voters whether they felt it would help Labour's chances at the election if Clark stood aside.

Thirty-seven per cent said it would be either harmful or very harmful to change now, but 22 per cent thought it would be helpful or very helpful, including 18 per cent of Labour voters.

A third of all voters thought it would make no difference to Labour's chances whether Clark stayed, including 31 per cent of Labour voters.

In another sign sentiment may be hardening, 75 per cent of voters say they are either unlikely or very unlikely to change their minds between now and the election, while 18 per cent say they are likely or very likely to switch allegiances.

Labour hopes to capitalise on undecided or swinging voters during the election campaign, but the poll shows Labour voters are more likely to change their minds than National's, with 20 per cent of Labour voters considering a switch compared with 14 per cent of National voters.

Those most likely to change their mind before polling day are Aucklanders, young people and those on low incomes.

In a glimmer of good news for the Government, Labour has retaken the lead over National in Wellington and has made inroads into National's lead among young people and low to middle-income earners. Clark's popularity in the capital and in Christchurch has also increased.

Labour is slipping further behind in the key battleground of Auckland, with National opening up a lead of 60 per cent compared with Labour on 27 per cent.

For the first time in the Nielsen poll, National has captured the larger share of the Maori vote, with 39 per cent of Maori planning to give their party vote to National and 22 per cent to Labour.

A further 22 per cent said they were planning to vote for the Maori Party.

That leaves Pacific Islanders as the only ethnic group now favouring Labour over National.

The poll surveyed 1101 people between June 11 and June 17 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 per cent.

Of those polled, 4 per cent were excluded for being under 18 or ineligible to vote. A further 13 per cent were undecided or said they would not vote for any party.

They were excluded from the base for this question.

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