Prime Minister John Key's popularity has taken a hit in the post-Budget 3 News Reid Research poll, dipping below 40 per cent for the first time since early 2014.

The poll which started on Budget Day (May 21) had Mr Key on 39.4 per cent as preferred Prime Minister, down almost five points since the last Reid-Research poll in January.

Support for the National Party had also dipped to 46.4 per cent, down by 3.4 points, while Labour went up slightly to 30.4 per cent.

It was the second poll this week which had Mr Little neck and neck with NZ First leader Winston Peters as preferred Prime Minister. Mr Little was on 11.6 per cent while Mr Peters was on 11.2 per cent - a similar result to the One News Colmar Brunton poll on Monday as Mr Peters continues to benefit from the afterglow of his win in the Northland byelection.

Advertisement

Mr Key said that showed there was a view in the public that "the real leader of the Opposition is Winston Peters." However. Mr Little continued to claim the title saying it was only held by one person and that was him. Mr Peters was more reluctant, saying the term was outdated and had not applied since MMP came into being.

NZ First and the Green Party were also up - the Green Party was on 11 per cent and NZ First on 8 per cent. There was little change among the minor parties.

The poll also showed more than half of the respondents (52 per cent) believed Mr Key had gone too far in pulling waitress Amanda Bailey's ponytail, the news of which had broken at the end of April. About 42 per cent accepted Mr Key's explanation that he was "just horsing around" while eight per cent did not know. The result for Mr Key was a contrast from One News Colmar Brunton poll on Monday night in which Mr Key's popularity was up by two points to 44 per cent. Mr Key told 3 News he did not believe that his dip was the result of ponytail fallout. "I think there's always a range of different factors in that." He said he had apologised for it and had nothing more to say.

The poll had National on 46.4 (down 3.4), Labour 30.4 (up 1.3), Green Party on 11.1 (up 1.8), NZ First 8.1 (up 1.3), Conservative Party on 1.9 (down 0.8), Maori Party 1.1 (down 0.2), Act on 0.5 (upo 0.1) and United Future on zero.

The poll of 1000 eligible voters was taken between May 21 and 27 and had a margin of error of +/-3.1%.