National has finished the first year of its third term in as strong a position as it was a year ago, according to the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey.
It has the support of 51.3 per cent of voters, up slightly on the last poll in August (50.8) and on the same poll a year ago (50.4).
Prime Minister John Key won a third term in September last year with 47.04 per cent for National.
Labour polled just 25.13 per cent at last year's election when David Cunliffe was leader. Andrew Little has been leader for only a year but appears to have pulled the party out of the demoralising 20s and into more stable territory, at 31.1, up by 0.1.
Mr Key continues his remarkable popularity with voters, and is preferred Prime Minister by 65.2 per cent of voters, up from 63.7 per cent in August.
However it is not the peak of his popularity. Just before the 2011 election he was polling around 70 per cent as preferred Prime Minister.
After hearing the poll results Mr Key told the Herald last night that it was a positive way to close the year.
"We have a big work programme for next year, including a strong emphasis on lifting standards of living."
Labour's Mr Little can afford to feel a little buoyed by the fact that his popularity has gone up with the stronger profile he has had in the past two months.
He has increased by 2.9 points to 16.2 per cent, at the expense of New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, who is down by 3.7 points to 7.9 per cent.
Labour front bencher Jacinda Ardern is on 2.8 per cent, down by 1.1.
And former Prime Minister Helen Clark comes in fifth at 2.5 points, virtually the same as before.
Mr Little's rise is against the backdrop of a successful party conference, his first as party leader, a well-managed reshuffle in which the caucus appeared relatively unified, and a high-profile trip to Australia by him to argue for an end to statutory discrimination against New Zealanders who have arrived since 2003, and to advocate for Kiwis in detention as a result of changes to the immigration law.
Mr Little said last night that he was pleased but he did not underestimate the magnitude of the task ahead in catching up with Mr Key, whose name he would not say.
"While it is satisfying to see a movement upwards, in the end there is still a huge gap between me and the next fellow so there's a long way to go."
He said now that Labour had "settled down and got ourselves focused" people were wanting to see a clear distinction between Labour and National in terms of policies.
"That's next year's task ... and we've now put ourselves in a position where we've [got to get that under way]."
Mr Key won an outright majority on election night but after the final votes were counted has had to again rely on support parties: a combination of Act, United Future and the Maori Party.
A breakdown in party vote support suggests that New Zealand First has lost support among senior voters and that Labour has picked up support in Auckland, although the age breakdowns in particular, are indicative only.
In the last poll, in August, New Zealand First recorded 15 per cent support among voters aged 65 and over. In this poll it is 7.5 per cent.
National has the support of 60.4 per cent of voters aged 65 and over, compared with 57.9 per cent l in the last poll, in August.
In the last poll, Labour polled just 28.6 per cent of voters in Auckland but this month has polled 37.4 per cent.
Labour's support is also more evenly balanced between men and women than it has been. Now it has 31.6 per cent of men and 30.5 per cent of women compared to the August poll: 26 per cent of men and 35.8 per cent of women.
National supported by 51.3 per cent overall
Men 55 per cent
Women 47.5 per cent
Aucklanders 44.9 per cent
Rest of NZ 55 per cent
Aged 18 to 39 - 40.7 Aged 40 to 64 - 58.1 Aged 65 plus - 60.4
Labour supported by 31.1 per cent overall
Men 31.6 per cent
Women 30.5 per cent
Aucklanders 37.4 per cent
Rest of NZ 27.1 per cent
Aged 18 to 39 - 38.8
Aged 40 to 64 - 26.4 Aged 65 plus - 24.5
Greens supported by 8.2 per cent overall
Men 5.5 per cent
Women 11 per cent
Aucklanders 6.6 per cent
Rest of NZ 9.2 per cent
Aged 18 to 39 - 11
Aged 40 to 64 - 6.7
Aged 65 plus - 5.7
NZ First supported by 5.7 per cent overall
Men 4.9 per cent
Women 6.4 per cent
Aucklanders 7.4 per cent
Rest of NZ 4.8 per cent
Aged 18 to 39 - 2.7
Aged 40 to 64 - 7.4
Aged 65 plus - 7.5
• The poll of 750 eligible voters was conducted between December 4 and 14. Party vote results are of decided voters only. Undecideds were 13.1 per cent. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.6 per cent.