Claire Trevett: Poll crash for National could spell catastrophe for Judith Collins

Parliament is due to return next week but two new polls may have Judith Collins praying that lockdown keeps many of her MPs locked up in Auckland for a fair bit longer.

Two lockdown polls made public on Wednesday tell two slightly different stories – but one, in particular, may prove fatal for Collins’ leadership.

One has National dropping only slightly from its pre-Covid levels at 26 per cent and was taken by Labour’s pollsters, Talbot Mills Research (formerly UMR), for its clients.

The second had National crashing from almost 30 per cent in July to 21.3 per cent – and was taken by the National’s Party’s pollsters: Curia.

It was not commissioned by the National Party, but by the Taxpayers’ Union and was released publicly.

The latter poll may well prove catastrophic for National Party leader Judith Collins.

She was preferred PM by just 4.4 per cent while Act’s David Seymour was at 9.3 per cent and Act had continued to rise in popularity to hit 15 per cent.

The two criteria already being talked about as the trigger for a leadership coup within National was for National’s polling to be less than 26 per cent and Act to be heading toward 20.

It should (and probably will) take more than one poll, especially a poll taken at such a tumultuous time as a lockdown. Governments tend to rank more highly in a crisis.

But National MPs give Curia polls credence – and may also consider Collins herself has done as much damage to the polling as the lockdown has.

They cannot simply brush off a poll from their own pollsters.

The difference in the numbers between the two polls may simply be the timing.

The Talbot Mills poll was taken from August 31 to September 6, while the Curia poll started on Sunday, September 5, and ran to September 9.

That was the end of a bad week for Collins, including an antagonistic interview with TVNZ’s Breakfast present Indira Stewart about Collins’ decision to return to Parliament from Auckland’s lockdown.

Collins spent much of that week defending that decision, rather than talking about Covid.

The second poll started at the tail end of that week as speculation fired about whether Collins would hold on to the leadership and the likelihood Simon Bridges would roll her within months.

That possibility remains – and will be even more likely if such a poll result is repeated.

Collins has done little to redeem herself since those polls ended.

The MPs cannot sit easy at 21 per cent. Nerves will be jangling because Act was at 15 per cent. The breakdown of voting intentions showed one in six of National’s 2020 voters were now intending to vote for Act, while one in 10 were undecided.

There were no signs that Act was losing its appeal as a viable alternative.

However, the Curia poll will have done little to assure them Bridges is the right person to take over instead.

Bridges did register as preferred PM, but only at 0.8 per cent.Christopher Luxon was higher, at 3.3 per cent.

The favorability ratings showed negative sentiment for Bridges was almost as bad as for Collins.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was the only one who had a net favourable rating.

The MP who scored second best was not a National MP. It was David Seymour.

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