Prime Minister Bill English is soaring above the competition in a new survey asking who is the most capable person of running the Government, with 41 per cent support.
Labour leader Andrew Little and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters are in a virtual dead heat, but a long way behind with 10 per cent and 9 per cent support respectively.
The results come from the first Herald-ZB Kantar TNS online survey.
The Green co-leaders rated 4 per cent between them, and United Future 1 per cent.
The leaders of Act and the Maori Party got no rating at all.
But the new Opportunities Party leader, Gareth Morgan, has come in at 2 per cent.
Precisely the same number of those who thought English was best equipped to run the Government thought the country was headed in the right direction - 41 per cent, with 32 per cent saying it wasn't and 27 per cent who were not sure.
English became Prime Minister in December after eight years as Finance Minister during which time he got the books in the black.
The election-year Budget in May was fairly well received and even the Greens and New Zealand First voted for much of the $2 billion families package.
The survey in early July came after a couple of tumultuous weeks for both English and National over the saga of Todd Barclay and the recording of his executive secretary.
It was also a rough time for Labour leader Andrew Little who was on the defensive over the party's foreign intern scheme.
English is having a week's holiday in the deep south to recharge his batteries before the campaign begins for the September 23 election.
National campaign manager and Finance Minister Steven Joyce said it was still early days. "We've got a reasonable starting position but we know you've got to keep working hard to earn the right and the confidence of New Zealanders. I know that's where Bill's head will be at."
The fact that as Finance Minister he had steered the country through two large shocks, the GFC and the Canterbury earthquakes stood him in good stead. "People probably feel that they know him and they trust him."
Andrew Little told ZB that the survey result should not please the Government, especially the ones on right direction, with 59 per cent believing the country was not going in the right direction or did not know and only 41 per cent thinking it was.
"I don't think the Government can take any comfort at all from those sorts of numbers."
Even among those who think English is the most capable of running the country, only 77 per cent think it is headed in the right direction; 6 per cent don't think it is and 17 per cent are not sure.
The Opportunities Party leader, Gareth Morgan, an economist and author, on 2 per cent rates higher than some smaller parties already in Parliament, including all of National's current support partners, Act, United Future, and the Maori Party.
He has been delivering some big promises including one yesterday to give all 18 to 23-year-olds $200 a week.
A further breakdown on the "most capable" question shows English has greater support in Auckland than in Wellington. While his overall support is 41 per cent, it is 46 per cent in Auckland and only 28 per cent in Wellington. He is not that popular in households with children, rating 37 per cent, but rated 46 per cent in dual income households with no children.
Winston Peters' support pool in Canterbury and Wellington is only 4 per cent but his nationwide support is 9 per cent. And the gender difference is marked with 12 per cent of men supporting him and just 7 per cent of women.
• The survey was conducted between July 5-11 and the sample size was 1000. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 per cent.
• It is an online survey by ConsumerLink which runs on the Fly Buys panel of 120,000 active members, one of the largest in New Zealand.
• Sampling is nationally representative and is then post-weighted by age, gender and region to match the population.