Labour has nudged back over 30 per cent in the latest One News poll and its new leader Andrew Little has debuted at 12 per cent as preferred Prime Minister.
The One News Colmar Brunton poll has Labour at 31 per cent - six points up on the last poll in September last year. The result will delight the party which got just 25 per cent in the election last year. Getting back over the morale-sapping 30 per cent mark will be a confidence booster for Mr Little and follows a Roy Morgan poll which also had Labour just over 30 per cent. Mr Little's personal rankings of 12 per cent were similar to those of his predecessor David Cunliffe, but it is the first Colmar Brunton poll since he was elected leader.
However Labour's gains were at the expense of the smaller parties as both the Greens and NZ First dipped down. National was on 49 per cent - similar to its election night result and up four points since September. The poll was taken between 14 - 18 February, beginning during the height of the controversy after SkyCity approached the Government for more funding for the convention centre. National's Steven Joyce announced he had rejected that request on February 15 - timing which may have saved National from a hit in the poll.
The poll of 1000 voters has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 per cent. It was taken at a time of strong public debate about a likely deployment of New Zealand's military trainers to Iraq - a decision Cabinet is expected to finalise tomorrow. It was also in the aftermath of the resignation of former MP Mike Sabin.
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Prime Minister John Key's personal ratings took a slight hit - he was at 41 per cent as preferred Prime Minister, down two points. The Green Party, possibly affected by co-leader Russel Norman's decision to step down from the role, had dipped by two points to 10 per cent.
Mr Little said it was pleasing Labour's numbers were going in the right direction. "But we've still got a long way to go and I've still got a long way to go in terms of what I have to do. I think the caucus understands the work that is ahead of us."
The poll was taken after Mr Little's Waitangi Day suggestion to consider greater Maori self-governance. The end of the polling period also included Green Party criticism of Mr Little for choosing one of his own MPs rather than a Green MP to be on the Intelligence and Security Committee. It also got the start of news of his failure to pay freelance columnist David Cohen for advice during the leadership contest.
In the poll, National was on 49 per cent (up four), Labour on 31 per cent (up six points), Green Party 10 per cent (down 2), NZ First on 6 per cent (down 2) Maori Party on 2 per cent (even); and the Conservative Party was back down to 1 per cent after hitting 4 per cent just before the election.