WELLINGTON: Support for New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's party surged in a widely watched poll published on Monday (Feb 11), with the 38-year old premier seen as the most preferred person to lead the country by far.
Since coming to power in 2017, Ardern's coalition government has faced several challenges including weak business confidence, emboldened unions and a slowing economy. However, missteps and scandals by the opposition National Party in recent months have helped it pull ahead of its rivals.
In the latest Newshub Reid Research poll, support for Ardern's centre-left Labour Party rose to 47.5 per cent while the opposition party fell to 41.6 per cent, a record low.
The number of respondents naming Ardern as preferred prime minister also rose by 1.6 percentage points to 41.8 per cent, while only 5 per cent respondents chose the opposition leader, Simon Bridges.
"This is, I believe, a reflection of us doing the work," Ardern told Newshub.
The poll was taken from Jan 24 to Feb 2, and has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent, the polling agency said.
The numbers put the ruling coalition well ahead of all its rivals before the general election that is coming up next year.
Ardern rocketed to global celebrity as an inspiration for women after her unexpected election win and became only the second leader to give birth while in office since Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto.
While the Labour Party rose in the poll, support for its coalition partner, the nationalist New Zealand First Party, fell to 2.9 per cent, which would not be enough to reach the 5 per cent threshold it needs to be in parliament.
Labour was cast into government in October 2017 after striking a coalition deal with New Zealand First in the country's German-style proportionate voting system.
The arrangement also relied on backing from the progressive Green Party, whose support was at 5.1 per cent in the latest poll.
The coalition government, which brought an end to almost 10 years of National's centre right rule, came to power promising to pour money into social services and housing and strike a more protectionist stance by tightening up foreign investment rules.