May 18, 2020 / 7:07 AM / 14 days ago

Ardern becomes New Zealand's most popular PM in a century: poll

(Reuters) - Jacinda Ardern became New Zealand’s most popular prime minister in a century, a Newshub-Reid Research poll showed on Monday, thanks to her COVID-19 response that made the country among the most successful in curbing the spread of the disease.

FILE PHOTO: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a news conference prior to the anniversary of the mosque attacks that took place the prior year in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Martin Hunter

The first public poll since the coronavirus crisis took hold showed popularity for Ardern’s Labour jumped 14 points to 56.5% - the highest for any party ever.

Conversely, the biggest party in parliament - the Nationals, slumped to 30.6%, after sliding by 12.7 points.

The poll was conducted between May 8 and May 16, with half of the responses taken after the federal budget on Thursday.

As preferred PM, Ardern was at 59.5%, up 20.8 points on the last poll and the highest score for any leader in the Reid Research poll’s history.

The poll took into account public sentiment in the final days of the country’s strict level three lockdown, which also got massive support with almost 92% respondents saying it was the right call.

The Pacific nation was locked down for more than a month under “level 4” restrictions that were eased by a notch in late April. It has continued to enforce strict social measures on many of its citizens and businesses, helping prevent widespread community spread of the virus.

Businesses in the country including malls, cinemas, cafes and gyms reopened last Thursday.

Ardern’s stratospheric rise to become the country’s youngest prime minister and third woman to hold the office resulted in New Zealanders coining the phrase “Jacinda-mania.”

The rate of new cases have slowed dramatically in New Zealand in recent weeks. The virus has so far infected 1,499 people in New Zealand and killed 21. Globally more than 4.7 million cases have been reported while over 315,000 people have died, a Reuters tally shows.

Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Michael Perry

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