Christopher Luxon touts National's 'tremendous progress' as personal polling falls

National leader Christopher denies he has a "likeability" problem, after a poll showed his personal ratings on a steady decline.

His caucus members have continued to publicly back him as leader, rejecting any suggestion of a leadership change.

In the latest Newshub Reid Research poll, National is locked in a tight race with Labour - both polling in the mid-thirties. Luxon scored his lowest result in this poll as preferred prime minister, registering just 16.4 percent, down more than two points.

Speaking on his way into caucus, he said he was "up and down this country each and every week, meeting with people ... I'm listening to their concerns" and was "in touch with what was going on with them".

"I can tell you right now, they're focused on the cost of living crisis, restoring law and order, how to get better health and education - those are the conversations they want us focused on."

Luxon admitted he and National "had a lot of work to do" in the next five months, but he was "very confident" the party could make its case to the New Zealand public.

"That we're an alternative government who will get things done for them and actually get this country turned around and on track."

He pushed back when asked if he was relatable, and whether that was impacting his personal polling. Luxon said he had restored the party's support after taking over the leadership in late 2021, and National had "made tremendous progress".

"It's hard being the leader of the opposition, it's hard to get cut-through at times, but I'm working incredibly hard to get up and down the country, to listen to New Zealanders, understand what their concerns are, develop pragmatic, practical policy to get answers."

He did not want to name a level of polling at which he'd risk getting the boot from his caucus, saying the only poll he was interested in was the general election.

"It's all hypothetical, I'm focused on October the 14th, it's a different way of thinking - I'm focused on the outcome and the result."

Christopher Luxon.
Christopher Luxon. Photo credit: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

His deputy, Nicola Willis told First Up that Luxon still had her confidence.

"Look, I am very confident in Chris Luxon. We've had three polls in the last little bit, two of them had us getting ahead of Labour, one of them had us just behind and we are working towards an election - that's the poll that matters.

"I think people still have confidence in Chris Luxon as leader, we are doing a lot better as a party than we were a few years ago. We've really consolidated our vote, many polls have us ahead of Labour, and we want to keep growing that vote."

She dismissed suggestions she could take over the leadership.

"I'm interested in being the finance minister, and I'm enjoying my role as deputy leader. Chris and I are a team and we work together and I feel loyalty to him and I see him doing his job."

Echoing comments from the party's Health Spokesperson Shane Reti a few weeks ago, she talked about how impressive Luxon was behind the scenes.

"I see not just the bit you see on TV and that you hear on the radio, I see what he's done to bring the best out of our colleagues get them into the right roles. I see the work he's done to renew our party and get amazing new candidates through."

Reti himself refused to give a timeframe for when he thought the public would be familiar with Luxon.

"I don't think there's any period of time, it varies from person to person, New Zealanders will decide do they see credibility and a track record in the leader - I do and that's why I tagged my colours.

"I think there's parts of the leader that are continuing to reveal and continuing to demonstrate to New Zealanders the competencies and the skills he's got to be prime minister. So I remain excited for that."

He said Luxon was not part of the reason the party was struggling to rise in the polls.

"No. What we're going to focus on, we're going to focus on the things that matter to New Zealanders and make sure we have a contest of ideas for the election."

MP Gerry Brownlee said Luxon was not part of the problem, but he was not sure what was keeping the poll numbers in the 30s.

"Who knows? Voters make their choices, we're putting our policies out there progressively, and we're a long way from the election just yet.

"I think he's actually a very good leader, I think he's a very capable man who well understands the problems that New Zealand's got at the moment."

A change in leadership had not crossed his mind, he said.

MP Michael Woodhouse said there was still a very high level of undecided vote.

"Our challenge is to be able to demonstrate that we are the best people to navigate through very difficult times."

He said the leadership team was "great" and doing an excellent job, and there was still a long way to go before the election.