Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a post cabinet press conference at Parliament on June 08, 2020 in Wellington. (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Majority of New Zealanders still backing Jacinda Ardern’s Covid-19 leadership

Three surveys show the prime minister still has the public’s support, ahead of today’s announcement about whether the country will shift alert levels.

As health experts cast doubt on the chances of a move to alert level one this week, New Zealanders remain confident in our political leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Cabinet is meeting this morning to discuss any possible adjustments to our alert levels – level 2.5 in Auckland and level two everywhere else. At this stage, the earliest the country could return to level one is 11.59pm this Wednesday night, a nudge more than two weeks after Auckland moved into level two, following 18 days spent in level three lockdown.

It comes as a triple-header of new surveys show New Zealanders remain largely supportive of our political leadership, even with the looming possibility of more time in alert level two. While two of the surveys were conducted prior to Covid-19’s re-emergence last month, they remain an indicator of the public’s mood during a time when no political polls have been released by our major television networks.

According to the latest Wilberforce Foundation survey of 1000 people in early August, 73% indicated the prime minister “inspired their confidence”, while 61% felt the same way about our health officials.

The prime minister has bounced up 1% from the same survey in April, which was released during the height of the pandemic. 

The survey results largely mirror a Deloitte and Chapman Tripp election survey conducted last month and released on Friday. Despite being skewed towards a business audience, 71% of those questioned said the government had done a good or excellent job of handling the Covid-19 outbreak. 

A Deloitte and Chapman Tripp survey showing 71% of respondents backed the government's covid response

(Image: Deloitte and Chapman Tripp)

That result seems almost in contrast to the fact that the same survey showed 60% were uncomfortable with the level of Covid-19 debt being taken on and 86% said economic wellbeing should take priority over cultural, environmental or social wellbeing during Covid recovery. In fact, damningly, just 19% said they believed the government had a coordinated plan of action focused on raising New Zealand’s economic performance. 

On numerous occasions, Ardern has said that a strong health response is the number one priority for her government, over and above the economy.

A similar discrepancy in the Wilberforce survey revealed rising anxiety and fear among some respondents, despite majority support for the government’s Covid-19 response.

Another survey released over the weekend showed similar backing for the prime minister. Horizon Research’s survey taken during the height of Auckland’s time in level three showed that Jacinda Ardern made nearly twice as many feel hopeful as her National counterpart Judith Collins.

(Image: Horizon)

According to the study, Ardern made “significantly more people feel hopeful, proud, comfortable and pleased than Collins”, with the National Party leader instead evoking feelings of anger, nervousness and disgust.

Specifically, almost twice as many people said Ardern made them feel hopeful compared with Collins – 46% to 24%.

The Wilberforce Foundation’s Chris Clarke said what stands out from their survey results is the “Kiwi spirit”.

“Nearly two out of three New Zealanders identified the sense of pulling together for the greater good, kindness and friendship and a sense of achievement as examples of the Kiwi spirit in action during the pandemic,” Clarke said. Ardern has never shied away from emphasising the collective efforts of the “team of five million” in combatting Covid-19, often placing it ahead of her own government’s response. 

Ardern is in Dunedin today, amid some pressure to bring at least the South Island out of alert level two. Since the Auckland cluster emerged in August, no confirmed Covid-19 case has been found in the community south of Tokoroa. 

An announcement on whether or not our alert levels will be changed is due at 1pm.

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