Sunday, 22 May, 2022
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Ardern popularity lowest since elected New Zealand PM

Jacinda Ardern's popularity has slumped to its lowest level since she became New Zealand Prime Minister in 2017, opinion polling shows, as criticism of her Covid-19 response and doubts about the economy grow.

The 1News-Kantar poll released Thursday put Ardern's rating as preferred prime minister at 35 percent but still showed her centre-left coalition government on course for victory at the next election, due late 2023.

Chris Luxon, the fifth opposition leader Ardern has faced, lifted his preferred PM rating 13 points to 17 percent.

Luxon is the recently installed leader of the conservative National Party, which narrowed the gap with Ardern's Labour Party by five points -- with the parties on 32 percent and 40 percent respectively.

Ardern faced a dip in popularity in late 2019 when only 36 percent rated her the preferred PM, but the number soared to a record 63 percent ahead of the 2020 election amid widespread praise for her success containing Covid-19.

Since then, critics have accused her of failing to adapt policies quickly enough to deal with the challenges of the Delta and Omicron variants.

There has also been dissatisfaction with tough border policies that make it hard for overseas-based Kiwis to return home, although Ardern's defenders point out the country has had only 52 virus deaths in a population of five million.

The opinion poll showed 49 percent of respondents were pessimistic about the economy, with just 22 percent expecting an improvement over the next 12 months.

The figures were released after official data showed New Zealand's annual inflation at a 30-year high of 5.9 percent, driven by the red-hot housing market.

House prices skyrocketed more than 28 percent in 2021, locking many of the young families who form part of Ardern's core support out of the dream of owning their own home.

The 1News-Kantar poll was conducted between January 22-26, with 1,000 eligible voters surveyed.

The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.