After a grim Newshub-Reid Research Poll for Labour saw the party trailing National by 8.4 per cent, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told interviewers on her weekly morning media round that Labour's internal polling had the two parties effectively neck and neck - and appeared to goad supporters into making those tightly-held polls public.
"Now in our polling, which is regular, National and Labour are neck and neck. And so that feels like a fairly accurate representation right now," Ardern told TVNZ's Breakfast programme, noting that media companies tend to poll less frequently than political parties.
Ardern made similar remarks on RNZ's Morning Report and expressed some surprise that the figures had not entered the public domain, presumably by being leaked.
"I'm surprised they haven't come out because they are often party of corporate briefings by the company that does ours [polls]. I'm sure they'll find a way out," Ardern said.
The Herald later obtained the most recent figures from Labour's internal pollster, Talbot Mills. They are from the organisation's October poll.
The poll had Labour and National on 35 per cent each, with Act on 11 per cent and the Greens on 9 per cent. NZ First were on 4 per cent while Te Pati Maori were on 2.2 per cent.
Labour's polling was steady on the prior month, with National down 3 points.
The figures had already been published by the Herald, and come from a Talbot Mills corporate poll - which is distinct from the organisation's private political polling.
The figures put the two right of centre parties on 47 per cent, slightly ahead of the two left of centre parties that polled 43 per cent.
The Newshub-Reid research poll had Labour on 32.3 per cent, down 5.9 points, with National up 0.2 points to 40.7 per cent.
Act was up 3.6 points to 10 per cent and the Greens were up 1.1 points to 9.5 per cent.
Ardern argued that the prior Reid Research Poll was taken in May, meaning there was a far longer period between polls.
It is possible the Newshub-Reid Research poll is the first to register a significant divergence in Labour and National's support and that other polls will confirm the trend. It is also possible the poll is a rare rogue poll, although Newshub-Reid Research's polls have tended to track other public polls, suggesting the figures are reputable.
Talbot Mills' Polls were closer to the final election result in 2020 than other public pollsters. Newshub-Reid Research and 1 News-Colmar Brunton (now Kantar) both placed National on 31 per cent in their final pre-election, when the party won just 25.6 of the vote in the election.
They both had Labour on roughly 46 per cent when the party actually won 50 per cent in the election.
Talbot Mills had Labour over 50 per cent in September and October polls, and had National on 29 both months.
Talbot Mills' October 2022 poll also showed a roughly equal number of people believed the country was on the right track as believed the country was on the wrong track. This indicator is often a good predictor of whether voters will reject an incumbent government.
Forty-five per cent of people believed the country was on the right track, compared with 46 per cent who believed it was on the wrong track.
Ardern told Breakfast that despite the softening in Labour's support, Labour could still win the 2023 election.
"Labour has come back from positions far worse than this to win an election and because we have focused on our people," she said.
This diverged sharply from people's views of economic conditions, with 69 per cent of people thinking current economic conditions were poor or not so good, and just 29 per cent of people thinking conditions were good or excellent.
The poll also looked at constitutional questions like becoming a republic, extending the time between general elections and lowering the voting age to 16.
Twenty-seven per cent of people supported New Zealand becoming a republic, behind 38 per cent of people who opposed the idea - 36 per cent of people were unsure.
Just 28 per cent of people support lowering the voting age, against 66 per cent of people who were opposed.
Forty-nine per cent of people supported extending the time between general election to four years, against 38 per cent who were opposed.
With the exception of becoming a republic, these electoral questions are currently being considered by the Government as it looks at reforming New Zealand's electoral laws.
The Poll was taken between September 29 and October 6 and polled a representative sample of 1016 people. The maximum sampling error is 3 per cent at the 95 per cent confidence interval.