National voters prefer the prospect of a post-election deal with Colin Craig's Conservative Party rather than Winston Peters' NZ First, a
-DigiPoll survey suggests.
The result will further aggravate the already fierce struggle between the pair for a pivotal post-election role.
Forty-seven per cent of National voters surveyed favoured the Conservatives over NZ First, which rated 37.9 per cent with National backers. Overall however, the poll of 750 voters found 47 per cent thought National should go with NZ First to form a government, while 35.3 per cent thought National should pick the Conservatives.
Mr Peters' reaction was to warn that a vote for the Conservatives would be wasted as he predicted they wouldn't win an electorate seat or get to the 5 per cent MMP threshold.
"As the old saying goes, money can't buy you love; it can't buy you an election either and that's what's going to be proven in 2014," he said.
The preference among the wider group for NZ First reflected "the reality" that "we're the only party with the experience to keep the system honest".
Asked about National voters preferring his adversary, Mr Peters said: "What you're hearing is a group of people who don't understand that the party they're talking about is not going to be standing up at the end of 2014."
Mr Craig said he was unsurprised by the poll results which he said was along the divide between left and right leaning voters.
"I'm pretty sure you wouldn't find any Labour, Greens or Internet Mana voters putting our name forward. I would expect all left wing voters to say NZ First," Mr Craig said.
It "made sense" that the Conservatives had stronger support among National voters.
"To me it seems that NZ First are more aligned with the left and we're more aligned with the right so it doesn't surprise me the numbers came out that way around."
Earlier yesterday on the campaign trail in Rotorua Mr Peters said if people were considering voting for Mr Craig because they wanted a right wing Government led by John Key, "It begs the question - why don't we cut the middle man out and just vote for the National Party and forget about you?"
The latest Herald-DigiPoll survey result, saw NZ First rise one point to 6 per cent which would translate to seven MPs. The new caucus would include two new faces - Fletcher Tabuteau and Clayton Mitchell, both of whom were by Mr Peters' side yesterday.
The NZ First Leader began yesterday at a retirement home, where he told residents his party was "enjoying a surge that will go all the way to election day".
But he later addressed a younger audience, giving a speech to tertiary students at the Waiariki Institute of Technology.
He told the audience they might be voting for the party with "the coolest leader or the funniest Facebook page", but NZ First was the only party which was not "telling you people what to think". Mr Peters won some applause with promises to make the student loan system fairer and to increase the minimum wage to $17. Meanwhile, a OneNews Colmar Brunton poll last night had National up 2 points to 50 per cent while Labour was down 2 points to 26 per cent.