The party of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has extended its lead in New Zealand’s latest opinion poll, putting the charismatic 40-year-old leader on track for a comfortable victory in the elections in September.
A Newshub-Reid Research Poll released late on Sunday showed the popularity of Ardern’s Labour Party rose to 60.9 percent, the highest it has been in the poll’s history.
Support for the main opposition National Party, which has been embroiled in a series of scandals and leadership changes, plunged to 25.1 percent.
According to the survey, the Labour, which is now in a coalition with the Greens and the nationalist New Zealand First party, would win 77 of 120 seats in parliament, which would enable it to govern without a coalition partner.
Ardern’s popularity as preferred prime minister was at 62 percent, while the National Party’s newly elected 61-year-old leader Judith Collins stood at just 14.6 percent.
Ardern has consistently polled ahead of her rivals and her popularity has risen further this year amid global praise for her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The country of five million people has had just 1,206 COVID-19 cases so far, and 22 deaths.
“I would like to think the message we can take from this is the general support for the government’s COVID-19 recovery and response plan,” Ardern, who rose to prominence in 2017 as New Zealand’s youngest-ever leader, told Newshub on Monday in response to the survey.
National Party campaign chairman Gerry Brownlee said the poll was “rogue”. Collins told Reuters news agency last week that she was confident her party would form the next government.
Ardern, who turned 40 on Sunday, told Newshub she celebrated with her partner and her two-year-old daughter doing normal things like going to the beach.