What issues are at the top of voters’ minds ahead of election day, and which parties do they think are most capable of tackling them?
This might be the most devastating poll yet for Labour. The latest IPSOS issues monitor, which tracks what issues voters think are most important and which parties are best equipped to handle them, shows Labour is losing to National on almost every top policy area.
Inflation/cost of living is still far and away the most important issue for voters. Of those surveyed, 62% said it’s one of the three most important issues facing New Zealand today. Since May 2022, crime/law and order has made a steady climb from fifth and now sits as the 2nd most important issue for voters at 36%.
Housing/price of housing has cooled off as an issue. It was the overwhelming top issue(s) in February 2021 at 60%, but has cooled off to 32% today and now sits third. This is roughly in line with the overheated housing market which has come down by an average of 16% from its peak.
Poverty/inequality saw a similar decline, from a peak of 31% in November 2020 (with the first lockdown and wage subsidies still fresh in the mind) it is now a top issue for only 16% of voters. Climate change has dropped out of the top five issues. It peaked at 27% after Cyclone Gabrielle but is now down to 21%, tied with petrol prices/fuel.
“While inflation continues to dominate in the minds of New Zealanders in the lead up to the election, most see inflation as a shorter-term issue, while we see the economy and climate change grow as issues for more New Zealanders on a long-term basis,” IPSOS New Zealand managing director Carin Hercock said.
But which parties to voters believe are most capable of tackling the issues people are most concerned about? It’s more good news for National and a devastating knock for Labour.
National is preferred for 15 of the top 20 issues, including the entire top five. Since the last poll in June 2023, Labour has lost its status as the most trusted party on healthcare/hospitals, education, transport, drug/alcohol abuse, and unemployment.
This is crisis stuff for Labour. Health and education have historically been two of their strongest areas. “This isn’t because National is doing better than they were in previous waves of the Ipsos Issues monitor, it is because more people say, “no party” or they “don’t know” which party is best at handling these issues and these are the groups most impacting Labour’s position,” Hercock said.
The only areas Labour still win on are poverty/inequality and race relations/racism, which are ranked as the the 8th and 12th most important issues. The Green Party is preferred on climate change and environmental pollution issues, while Te Pāti Māori is the top party on issues facing Māori.
Possibly the most important piece of bad news for Labour: voters’ opinions of government performance is in a massive slump.
The pollsters asked: Overall, how would you rate the government for its job in the last six months from 0 to 10, where 0 means “abysmal” and 10 means “outstanding”?
Labour now sits at 4.5, its lowest rating since it entered government. This poll also has the lowest portion of people who rank the government at a 7 or above (28%), and the highest number of people yet who rank it at a 3 or below (34%).
Approval ratings for the Labour-led government peaked at 6.6 and 7.6 after the Christchurch Mosque shootings and the March 2020 lockdown respectively. It was at 5.4 when Chris Hipkins took over as Labour leader.
This is arguably the most important piece of polling data in New Zealand. We don’t do a lot of polling on approval ratings, but this is crucial stuff. As the maxim goes; oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them. And these numbers clearly show Labour is losing the people.
IPSOS surveyed 1,148 people in August via online polls.