Almost one in five New Zealanders who oppose the partial sale of Mighty River Power intend buying shares in the company anyway, according to a Herald-DigiPoll survey.
But the survey also indicates opposition to the sales plan is softening, with just over half of the 750 respondents saying they are against it compared with almost two thirds a year ago, and as much as three quarters before the 2011 election, which was largely fought on the issue.
According to the poll, conducted between March 11 and March 17 during the Government's initial Mighty River Power advertising blitz, 52.2 per cent of respondents opposed the sale and 41.9 per cent supported it.
Of those opposed almost a fifth intended buying shares while 30 per cent of all those polled said they would buy shares. The survey has a margin of error of 3.6 per cent.
Glen Eden solo father Warren Hurley was among the 420,000 who had pre-registered for shares in Mighty River by yesterday afternoon, but he is also among 393,000 people who signed a petition against the sale.
"As it stands now the dividends from those assets go back to the community and I think it should stay that way," he said.
He planned to donate any dividends he received to services such as Hospice and St John's.
State Owned Enterprises (SOE) Minister Tony Ryall welcomed the "bit of a drop" in opposition.
"What it indicates is there's an increasing awareness amongst the public that this mixed ownership model is part of a wider economic plan that the Government has had to help control debt," Mr Ryall said.
"Many people can see what's happening internationally, in Cyprus and Italy and they can see the sense of controlling debt."
Neither he nor Labour's SOE spokesman Clayton Cosgrove were surprised that people opposed to the sale planned to buy shares.
"I suppose their rationale is this shouldn't happen but if it's going to happen they want a crack and you can understand that," Mr Cosgrove said. Despite the apparent softening towards the sales plan, "I would still argue that there is overwhelming opposition to it," he added.
"There's a referendum coming that I think will prove that point."
Last week Parliament was presented with a petition to force a referendum on the plan to sell up to 51 per cent of Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy.
After the signatures have been checked, the Government will have a year to hold a non-binding referendum. At least two of the assets could have been floated by then.
Infographic: Claudia Ruiz