It could hardly be closer with 20 weeks to go.
Last night’s 1News/Kantar poll delivered a result that, were it to be translated into the ballot box, would see National and Act able to form a government. But not by much.
We’re getting used to it. While psephologists rightly warn us to focus on trends, the lines are bumpy across the year so far. When we look at the top lines in the most recent polls from the major political polling companies, the most striking image is one of trembling closeness.
Here it is in a snapshot:
To underscore just how tight it is, a nudge for a few parties a point or two in each direction presents a big change in governing ensembles. Here’s what happens when each of those results is mapped on to a hypothetical House of Representatives.
62-58: A National-Act government, with Christopher Luxon as prime minister - 1News/Kantar
This week’s poll, conducted in the days after the Labour budget, saw National a nose ahead, and able to form a government with 62 of 120 parliamentary seats. Act’s 15 seats would likely see them take at least a quarter of the seats in a putative coalition cabinet. (All of these examples, by the way, are based on at least one Pāti Māori electorate win and no overhang.)
61-59: A Labour-Green plus Te Pāti Māori government, with Chris Hipkins as prime minister – Newshub/Reid
The latest Newshub poll, conducted earlier this month, would have produced a big “Te Pāti Māori as kingmaker” headline were it not for the fact that Christopher Luxon had ruled out working with them just a few days earlier. It instead produced a result that, were it to be repeated on election day, would given Chris Hipkins a chance to form a government, probably with a Green coalition and a confidence and supply deal with Te Pāti Māori, but by the very narrowest, potentially wobbliest of margins, especially when you extract a speaker from those 61 seats.
62-58: National-Act, with PM Christopher Luxon – Taxpayers’ Union/Curia
A near identical result to 1News’s in the latest Curia poll for the Taxpayers’ Union.
62-58: Labour-Green plus Te Pāti Māori, with PM Chris Hipkins – Roy Morgan
Flip it the other way in the latest survey by Australian pollster Roy Morgan, which presents a similar scenario to the Newshub result above.
60-60: A dead heat – Talbot Mills
The latest poll by Talbot Mills serves up a third option: a deadlock. Transpose the numbers into parliament and National plus Act would have 60, precisely half the seats in the strangely even-seated house, with Labour and the Greens 55 and Te Pāti Māori five.
What would happen if it was an election draw? Most likely – as we explored here – another election.
61-59: National-Act, with PM Christopher Luxon – the average of the lot
Chuck all the results above and swirl them together and the mean average presents a win for the right bloc, but by the whiskeriest of whiskers. National and Act could form a 61-seat coalition, with an opposition comprising 43 Labour MPs and 11 and five from the Greens and Te Pati Māori respectively.