Voters prefer Labour's remedy for the economy over National's, according to the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey - but they still don't like the doctor.
A slip in support for Labour has given Labour leader Phil Goff a massive challenge to make up ground four months out from the election.
In the latest survey, Mr Goff has again dropped back into the single digits as preferred Prime Minister - down to 9 per cent, from 12 per cent last month. He remained well behind Prime Minister John Key, who stayed steady on 70 per cent.
Among decided voters, the Labour Party also dropped three points to 33 per cent despite relatively strong approval of its new capital gains tax policy.
National increased its support slightly to 52, despite substantial opposition to its plans for partial sales of some state-owned enterprises, including among its own supporters.
Confidence in National's running of the country also grew - 58 per cent believed the Government was heading in the right direction, up one point from last month and up five points since the delivery of an austere Budget in May.
The slump for Mr Goff reversed several months of slight improvements in his personal rankings from 8 per cent in October. To rub salt into the wound, his predecessor, Helen Clark, also gained ground by two points to reach 8 per cent after steadily dropping since she left office.
The polling began a week after Labour announced its new tax policy, including a capital gains tax and a new top tax rate of 39 cents on income above $150,000. When asked which policy should be used to pay off Government debt, 43 per cent chose the capital gains tax and 34 per cent nominated state asset sales.
However, four out of five voters said the tax package would make no difference to the way they voted.
Opinion on the capital gains tax was evenly split in the poll - 38 per cent were in favour and an equal amount against.
The poll also revealed the extent of opposition to National's state asset sales plan - 41 per cent of the party's own supporters said they were against it, the same number as those in favour. Overall, 57 per cent of all respondents were against National's state asset sales - including 35 per cent strongly against.
Jon Johansson, a politics lecturer at Victoria University, said the poll showed that even when Labour had ideas that met with public approval the voters were not receptive to the "current messenger."
"There's no hiding the fact that the public are not responding to a Phil Goff-led Labour."
Mr Johansson said Mr Goff needed to give up on a head-to-head popularity contest with Mr Key and let other caucus members take a greater role.
"They really need to run a campaign that de-emphasises leadership because so long as the overriding comparison in voters' minds is Key versus Goff, that is not good for Labour.
"At the moment it's a straight out popularity contest that Goff has lost. There is nothing Goff can personally do to change on the back of a 30-year narrative in politics."
Mr Goff believed Labour's message was now getting through, as evidenced by the support for the new policies. He believed people would vote based on policies rather than personality.
The Green Party rose to 8.3 among decided voters. Act polled at 1.4 (down 0.5), the Maori Party 2 (up 0.3), NZ First 0.9 (down 0.3), Mana on 0.6 (up 0.1) and United Future on 0.6 (up from zero).
The polling period also coincided with releases showing a modest growth in GDP and the latest consumer price index showing prices had increased by 5.3 per cent - the sharpest increase in 20 years.
If an election were held today, which party would you vote for?*
Green Party 8.3
Maori Party 2.0
NZ First 0.9
Mana Party 0.6
*Those who took the poll were decided voters.
Of all the politicians in New Zealand, who would be your most preferred prime
John Key 70.3
Phil Goff 9.3
Helen Clark 7.9
Winston Peters 2.9
Hone Harawira 1.9
Don Brash 1.3
Pita Sharples 1.2
Annette King 1.1
Do you think the government is moving in the right direction?
Don't know/Refused 8.7
The Labour party intends to introduce a capital gains tax if it wins this years election. Which of the following statements best describes your views on such a tax, Would you say you are...?
Strongly in favour 16.5
Moderately in favour 21.4
Have no opinion 22.8
Moderately against 16.0
Strongly against 21.5
Don't know/Refused 1.8
Will Labour's plans for a capital gains tax, along with a small reduction in income tax for most people make you...
More likely to vote for Labour 22.1
Less Likely to vote for Labour 14.4
Will make no difference to your vote 61.3
Don't Know 1.9
The National Party intends selling up to 49 percent shares in some state owned
enterprises if it wins the election. Which of the following statements best describes
your views on this, Would you say you are...Strongly in favour 7.2
Moderately in favour 19.8
Have no opinion 15.5
Moderately against 22.1
Strongly against 34.5
Don't know/Refused 0.9
In your opinion which of following methods should the government use to pay off the
A capital gains tax 43.1
Part sale of some state own enterprises to private investors 34.4
No opinion 6.3
Don't know 8.7
Do you think the New Zealand SAS should remain in Afghanistan beyond March next year or be withdrawn as scheduled?
Should remain beyond March 23.1
Should be withdrawn as scheduled 63.3
Don't Know 13.6
According to Act Leader Don Brash Maori have too much say on how things are run in New Zealand. Do you think Maori have....
Too much say 42.2
Too little say 13.2
About the right amount 39.8
Don't Know 4.2
Do you believe women in workplace are paid less because they are women?
Don't Know 9.4