New poll on National leadership gives late boost to outsiders

With the crucial caucus meeting only hours away, Judith Collins and Steven Joyce top preferred leader numbers – but it’s a different story in assessing leadership chop.

As National MPs descend on Wellington to cast their votes in the contest to succeed Bill English as party leader, most observers are calling it a two-horse race. It’s Amy Adams v Simon Bridges, goes the consensus. A new telephone poll from UMR research, conducted in the week leading up to yesterday, offers some succour for their elder rivals, however.

When respondents were presented with the five candidates’ names, 21% selected Judith Collins as their preferred National Party leader. Steven Joyce was the choice of 16%. Amy Adams scored 13%, Simon Bridges 11%, and Mark Mitchell 7%. The lack of any clear frontrunner is underscored by the fact a third of all respondents plumped for a mysterious candidate named Unsure.

Among National voters, Collins and Joyce’s lead is greater still, with 48% choosing one of the two veterans and only 19% opting for one of Bridges or Adams.

The younger pretenders can reasonably point to their candidates’ comparatively low public profiles, but will be disappointed to see that they haven’t gained much traction in the unprompted numbers while Mark Mitchell has come from nowhere in the last poll to be nipping at their heels. In this category Mitchell even edges ahead of Bridges among National voters.

Absent the prompt of the candidate list more than half of respondents backed the enigmatic Unsure.

In the least surprising revelation of the year, Judith Collins is shown to be the most polarising of the candidates. When UMR asked respondents how they thought the candidates would fare as leader, Collins led the field, with 33% saying they believed she would perform well. Those who felt she’d do poorly in the role was even higher, however, at 34%.

Collins’ performance net rating among all survey respondents was -1, with Joyce on +6. Adams has a healthy advantage over Bridges on this score with +8 to his -6 (the apparent discrepancy in the graphic is explained by rounding to zero decimal places).

Joyce and Collins surge back to the front, however, when National voters’ performance ratings alone at taken into account. Here Joyce chalks up an impressive + 27 min result with Collins on plus 24. Adams remains on -8, with Bridges -1.

Public unfamiliarity with Mark Mitchell is underscored by the 58% who answered “unsure” when his name was proffered in this question, both overall and among National voters. It’s a safe bet, however that is motivation all along was principally about boosting his profile.

UMR surveyed 600 New Zealanders 18 years of age and over by telephone between 19 and 25 February 2018. The margin of error for sample size of 600 for a 50% figure at the 95% confidence level is ± 4%.


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