The Prime Minister gets a Covid jab but can she be innoculated against falling polls?

A poll published yesterday shows support for Labour has slumped.

The Roy Morgan New Zealand poll of 951 New Zealanders interviewed during June shows support for the Government is down 5% points on May 2021 and represents the lowest support for the Labour-led Government since coming to power in October 2017 and the lowest support for Labour since December 2019.

Roy Morgan’s CEO says it is the end of the Covid honeymoon, which comes, ironically, as the Prime Minister begins to talk about how we might open the borders again.

The full results are:

Party Support - percentages
MayJune
Labour4538.5
Greens1112.5
Centre Left5651
National28.529.5
ACT911.5
Centre Right37.541
Maori1.52.5
NZ First21.5

Translated to seats in Parliament, Labour and the Greens would have 65 while National and ACT had 53, so a Labour/Green coalition would still be a strong Government.

But there are clear messages in this poll to both Labour and National; voters are not swinging to the two main parties but to their smaller “mates”.

The poll shows a widening polarisation between the right and the left.

The Greens are now polling at 3.6 per cent above their election night total, while ACT is up 3.9 per cent on election night.

National has not been the big beneficiary from the big swing away from Labour.

It is up only 1.5 per cent on its December polling figure while Labour has gone down 5.5 per cent over the same period.

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New Zealand First’s attempt at a comeback appears not to have worked with the party down by 0.5 per cent despite Winston Peters’ fiery speech about the Treaty at his party’s conference a fortnight ago.

But the big takeaway is that support for the Government is fading.

The Roy Morgan Government Confidence Rating dropped by 10 points in June to 124 – the lowest it has been since October 2019 before the Covid pandemic.

In June, a reduced majority of 57% (down 5.5% points) of New Zealand electors said New Zealand was ‘heading in the right direction compared to nearly a third, 33% (up 4.5% points) who said New Zealand was ‘heading in the wrong direction’ – the highest figure for this indicator since Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern came to power in October 2017.

Michele Levine, CEO Roy Morgan said the results appeared to show the long COVID ‘honeymoon’ enjoyed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for her excellent handling of the pandemic since March 2020 has finally ended.  

“In addition, Roy Morgan Government Confidence has dropped 10 points to 124 in June – its lowest mark since the beginning of the pandemic,” she said.

“The slow pace of New Zealand’s vaccine rollout may be hitting confidence in the Government.

“By the end of June, around 1.15 million doses of COVID-19 had been administered, and around 9% of the population have been fully vaccinated – well below countries such as the UK and the USA, which have fully vaccinated about 50% of their citizens.

“One of the favourable comparisons to be made is to near-neighbours Australia, which has fully vaccinated only around 5% of its population.”

According to the New York Times Vaccination tracker for July 3, New Zealand has fully vaccinated nine per cent of its population against Australia, fully vaccinating only 6.8 per cent.

In recent days two of New Zealand’s closest international partners, Australia and Singapore, have produced plans to move on from the pandemic.

On Friday, after meeting with the State premiers, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison produced a four-point plan.

  • Offer every Australian an opportunity to be vaccinated with the necessary doses of the relevant vaccine as soon as possible and establish digital vaccination authentication at international borders. Then:
  • Introduce new reduced quarantine arrangements for vaccinated residents. Then:
  • Abolish caps on returning vaccinated travellers; allow increased capped entry of student, economic, and humanitarian visa holders; lift all restrictions on outbound travel for vaccinated persons; and extend travel bubble for unrestricted travel to new candidate countries (Singapore, Pacific). Then:
  • Allow uncapped inbound arrivals for all vaccinated persons, without quarantine; and allow uncapped arrivals of non-vaccinated travellers subject to pre-flight and on arrival testing.

Morrison would not commit to time frames beyond saying he was confident Australia could reach the first target of offering a vaccination to every Australian by the end of this year.

Singapore is drawing up a road map that will lead to free travel again, but it is taking a slightly different approach to Australia in that parts of its strategy focuses on the treatment of cases.

The country’s Covid-19 Multi Ministry Task Force said on June 24 that Covid-19 was very likely to become endemic.

“The bad news is that Covid-19 may never go away,” the statement said.

“The good news is that it is possible to live normally with it in our midst.”

Singapore’s first aim is to have two-thirds of its population vaccinated by August 9.

The statement said that patients who did catch Covid could recover at home because, with vaccination, the symptoms would be mostly mild. With others around the infected person also vaccinated, the risk of transmission would below.

“There may not be a need to conduct massive contact tracing and quarantining of people each time we discover an infection. People can get themselves tested regularly using a variety of fast and easy tests,” the statement said.

“If positive, they can confirm with a PCR test and then isolate themselves.”

Singapore will stop counting every Covid case and instead focus on the very sick and those admitted to hospital.

And then travel will open up.

“We will be able to travel again, at least to countries that have also controlled the virus and turned it into an endemic norm,” the statement said.

“We will recognise each other’s vaccination certificates.

“Travellers, especially those vaccinated, can get themselves tested before departure and be exempted from quarantine with a negative test upon arrival.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday that she was looking to Canada as one model for how to decide when to open borders.

Since Sunday night, fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents are exempt from quarantine requirements when they enter the country.

“For others, we will be looking at how this works before we open up to next steps, but we will continue to put first and foremost the safety and security of Canadians at the top of everything we do,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Ardern said Canada was not fully vaccinated.

“This is an opportunity for us when we’ve got a country that isn’t necessarily what everyone would call fully vaccinated is opening up its borders to certain travellers for us to get a bit of a sense of the likely transmission from those travellers because they are including testing as part of that,” she said.

“We’ll continue to look at the research and evidence around the transmission of vaccinated passengers to see whether or not that allows us the ability to create additional movement for particularly New Zealanders, but potentially others,” she said.

“We will, however, continue as the vaccine rolls out in New Zealand to provide the latest thinking we have around our reopening.

“But in terms of detail, I think every country at the moment, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, continues to look at the evidence, what’s happening around us when it comes to the impact of the vaccine.”

In essence, the Government has based its entire recovery from Covid on getting everybody vaccinated. So far, the progress has been slow, but Ardern said yesterday with more stocks of the Pfizer vaccine arriving this month, she had “an absolute expectation and belief that we can fulfil our commitment, which is to offer every New Zealander a vaccine and the ability to be vaccinated by the end of the year.”

The Morgan poll will have added more pressure (and possibly, urgency) to meet that goal.