Both the Greens and ACT are sitting pretty after yet another poll has them playing a lead role in Labour and National’s fortunes at the next election, writes political editor Jo Moir

National and Labour will be equal parts happy and annoyed with the latest 1News Kantar Public poll.

The race has been tightening between the two major parties for months and National is now consistently pipping Labour in being able to form a government.

Tuesday night’s poll is no different with National and ACT having the magic 61 seats needed to form a government while Labour, Greens and Te Pāti Māori fall short with 59.

It’s a good result for the right but National will be frustrated to have not made any progress in its party result, holding steady on 37 percent.

On the other side of the equation, Labour can’t form a government based on the latest results but its trajectory is going in the right direction – up 1 percent to 34.

The preferred prime minister results have Labour’s Jacinda Ardern unchanged on 30 percent while National’s Christopher Luxon has dropped one point to 21 percent. ACT’s David Seymour registered 4 percent and NZ First’s Winston Peters is on 2 percent.

In a straight head-to-head question of whether voters would prefer Ardern or Luxon as prime minister, 47 percent chose Ardern versus Luxon on 41 percent.

The same question was asked in March and the results this time round reflect a one-point increase for Ardern and a four-point drop for Luxon.

National will be disappointed to not have its leader’s personal poll results improving when the electorate looks to be swinging behind a change of government.

And while Labour can’t form a government based on those results, it will take comfort from the fact Ardern’s personal ratings are holding up at a time when the headlines are dominated by a cost-of-living crisis.

It is the Greens and ACT who currently have all the power in the political landscape with both picking up two extra seats based on Tuesday night’s results, taking them from 10 to 12 MPs each.

In percentages it’s a two-point drop for ACT since the last poll in August, but nonetheless an improvement on its already hugely successful 2020 election result.

Considering the internal chaos in the Green camp in recent months with the membership ditching co-leader James Shaw at its AGM – only to re-elect him again – the party will be celebrating Tuesday’s result.

It’s now officially that point in the electoral cycle where all political parties start to turn their attention to the next election.

Parties who haven’t already hired their strategists and appointed their campaign chairs will be doing so in the coming weeks.

This month Newsroom has sat down with National, Labour and ACT’s campaign chairs, and the common theme is that next year will be a true MMP election and the cost-of-living and economic outlook will be front and centre of voters’ minds.

Ardern’s big job in the months ahead is to convince the electorate that things could have been a lot worse if her Government hadn’t made the choices it did during Covid – and continues to make as inflation hurts people’s back pockets.

On the other side, Luxon needs to set out how New Zealanders would have been better off if he’d been in charge and what life will look like under his leadership.

Luxon is still relatively untested and needs to connect with voters who still aren’t sure who he is and what exactly it is he stands for.

As for Ardern, she has the battle of reminding voters why they voted for her in droves at the 2020 election and why they should again, but for reasons that have very little to do with a global pandemic.

No easy task ahead for either of them.

*The poll was taken between September 17-21 and has a margin of error +/- 3.1 percent.

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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