NZ Labour Party support at 10-year high, PM Ardern's popularity jumps

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Support for New Zealand’s governing Labour Party surged to its highest level in more than a decade and approval ratings jumped for pregnant Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, a poll showed.

FILE PHOTO: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern smiles as she answers a question during a media conference in Sydney, Australia, November 5, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray

Support for Labour has surged 5.4 percentage points since September’s hotly contested election to 42.3 percent, its highest since it last held government in 2007, a Newshub-Reid Research poll showed on Wednesday evening.

Most of the polling was carried out after 37-year-old Ardern announced that was she was expecting her first child in June, the first New Zealand prime minister to hold office while pregnant.

The number of respondents naming Ardern as their preferred prime minister also jumped 8.3 points to 38 percent since the last poll in September, overtaking National Party leader Bill English on 26 percent.

The poll was carried out between Jan. 18 and Jan 28. Ardern announced her pregnancy to much fanfare from labor and women’s rights groups on Jan. 19.

The center-right National Party still captured the most support, mostly unchanged at 44.5 percent.

Labour’s rise was largely on the back of plummeting results for its coalition partner, the nationalist New Zealand First Party, whose support almost halved to 3.8 percent.

Labour was cast into government in October after striking a coalition deal with New Zealand First in the country’s German-style proportionate voting system.

The arrangement also relied on backing from the progressive Green Party, whose support slipped 0.3 points in the latest poll to 6 percent.

The center-left coalition government, which brought an end to almost 10 years of National’s center right rule, planned to pour money into social services and housing and strike a more protectionist stance by tightening up foreign investment rules.

Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Susan Thomas