Exclusive: Poll gives Judith Collins slim lead as preferred National leader

A UMR Research survey puts the polarising MP in the lead – but only slightly, and her favourability numbers are dismal, an area in which Amy Adams holds bragging rights.

The tussle to lead the biggest party in New Zealand’s parliament will be a tight one, if polling conducted largely prior to Bill English’s resignation and exclusively revealed to the Spinoff is a guide. Of the declared candidates, Judith Collins can boast the greatest support as preferred National Party leader, both among National voters and the wider public, though her lead over Steven Joyce is statistically negligible.

Collins fares less well on the favourability scale, where Amy Adams has the best aggregate backing of those seeking to succeed Bill English.

The decision will be down solely to the National caucus, which is scheduled to vote next Tuesday. For some candidates more than others, however – and those who specialise in gloriously decadent cheesecake especially – public profile will be a crucial part of the case put to parliamentary colleagues.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two highest profile National MPs fare best in the preferred leader stakes. Steven Joyce and Judith Collins, both of whom first became cabinet ministers in 2008, are a whisker apart, with Collins the choice of 12% as an alternative to English and Joyce on 10%. When it comes to National voters, Collins has 17% and Joyce 16%.

Amy Adams and Simon Bridges are neck and neck, with both being the preferred leader of 8% overall and 9% among National voters. They’re edged out by Paula Bennett, who will stand again as deputy but is not seeking the leadership, on 11% (overall) and 14% (National voters), and Nikki Kaye, who was quick to rule herself out of the contest, on 12% and 11%.

Mark Mitchell, who joined the contest on Monday afternoon, was not among the names put to those surveyed by UMR. His ally Todd Muller, however, trailed at the back of the field.

Collins’ satisfaction at topping the preferred leader table will be offset, however, by her wider favourability. The MP for Papakura scores “favourable” among 33% of those surveyed by UMR, but a striking 53% “unfavourable”, leaving a net -20 result. Joyce finishes on -8, and Bridges on -11. Adams scores a strikingly superior net result, on +10, albeit with a high “unsure” number of 36%, suggesting a relatively low profile.

The best favourability result of +15 goes to Nikki Kaye, the MP for Auckland Central who has twice beaten Jacinda Ardern in electorate contests, and whose time could yet come.

A negative-21 result will make grim reading for deputy leader Paula Bennett, while Bill English’s favourability in the survey held strong on + 37 (64% favourable, 27% unfavourable).

UMR Research, whose clients include the Labour Party, returned the results from its nationwide online omnibus survey, conducted between January 30 and February 14 (Bill English resigned on February 13). A nationally representative sample of 1,000 New Zealanders 18 years of age and over are surveyed. The margin of error for sample size of 750 for a 50% figure at the 95% confidence level is ± 3.1%.

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