Support for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern among small businesses has dropped 15 points as National leader Christopher Luxon soars.
The latest MYOB Business Monitor survey of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) shows 25 percent support for Ardern, down from 40 percent in September. Support for Luxon, the former CEO of Air New Zealand, is at 42 percent, followed by ACT leader David Seymour at 9 percent.
MYOB's Jo Tozer said the big drop in support for Ardern is reflected in the 60 percent dissatisfaction with the Government's performance over the last 12 months, including 35 percent who were very disappointed.
In comparison, MYOB's 2021 Business Monitor showed just 35 percent of SMEs were unhappy with the Government's performance at the same time last year.
Luxon seems to have gained back support from business. In October last year, then-National leader Judith Collins received a brutal report card from the sector - National's traditional bread and butter backers.
A Newshub-Reid Research poll in 2020 found that voters trusted Labour with the economy more than National after the Government's COVID-19 success. It wasn't that long ago that Labour was still the party most trusted to solve the housing crisis.
But with New Zealanders now struggling through record high inflation - food prices have increased 7.6 percent, the largest increase since 2011 - and confusion over COVID-19 rules, Labour seems to be losing support.
The latest ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence survey published earlier this month showed that consumer confidence dropped even further in March to reach a fresh record low in data that began in 2004.
The report highlighted the "perfect storm" of the COVID-19 Omicron outbreak, rising living costs due to three-decade high inflation sparked by supply chain constraints and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a retreating housing market, and rising interest rates.
"While historically our polling has shown National to be seen by SMEs as the political party with the greatest understanding of business, in the lead up to the 2020 general election, we saw a very strong amount of support and satisfaction from SMEs for Labour and its leadership," said Tozer.
"Although we saw some of this support for the party tail off in our SME Snapshot last September, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was still well ahead in the preferred Prime Minister stakes sitting at 40 percent ahead of Judith Collins' 16 percent, so there has been a notable change in sentiment both towards the Government and Opposition from SMEs over the past six months or more."
The Government's shift down to the less restrictive COVID-19 orange traffic light setting has been welcomed by Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope. But he said the Government still needs to provide more clarity.
"Businesses would like to have more clarity around what might be required in the near future for the country to move to the green setting, as this remains an important signal for international travellers and our tourism sector," Hope said.
"There is also concern at too much inconsistency in mask requirements across different kinds of businesses, and we would like to see more consistent guidance issued."
National's finance spokesperson Nicola Willis said the results of the MYOB survey were "hardly surprising" given the "immense pressure this Government has put businesses under".
"The highest inflation in three decades, ongoing red traffic light restrictions, big minimum wage hikes, a new public holiday, a new jobs tax, and complex mandated union-negotiated sector-wide employment agreements - all of these things make life harder for small business owners."
National wants to lift the income tax brackets by just over 11.5 percent, to match the 11.5 percent increase in the cost of living over the last four years.
According to National, a family with two kids on an average household income of $110,000 would qualify for a $1600 income boost. But National's same tax proposals would see Luxon get an $18,000 income tax reduction.
The Prime Minister's office declined to comment on the MYOB survey.
Ardern on Wednesday blamed the supermarket duopoly for high food prices.
"New Zealanders are not getting a fair deal because we don't have good competition. There's a number of recommendations [the Commerce Commission] have made. We're exploring whether we need to go further."
The Government has tried to ease the financial burden on low-income families.
As of April 1, benefit rates increased by between $20 and $42 per adult per week, while the minimum wage rose from $20 per hour to $21.20, and Working for Families tax credits were bumped up too.
Then in May, the Winter Energy Payment returns until October - $20.46 a week for eligible single people with no dependents and $31.82 a week for couples and people with dependent children.
The Government also slashed petrol taxes and public transport costs will be halved for an initial three months to help ease the financial pressure at the pump.