Election 2023: Political pundit Bryce Edwards says back-to-back bad poll results will have Labour 'very worried'

Labour is on the ropes following back-to-back bad poll results, which will have them very worried, according to a political pundit.

Two days ago, the latest Talbot Mills poll showed Labour had pulled in just 31 percent of support while National soared to 36 percent. The right bloc also had its biggest lead on the left since 2017. 

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins also suffered a six-point drop in the preferred Prime Minister rankings - down to 32 percent but National leader Christopher Luxon also fell a point to 21 percent.

A day later, the latest Taxpayers' Union - Curia poll showed similar results for Labour. It pulled 31 percent, while National was just ahead on 33 percent. 

Hipkins took a big hit as preferred Prime Minister, dropping from 29 percent to 23 percent, while Luxon dropped three points to 20 percent. 

Chris Hipkins and Christopher Luxon.
Chris Hipkins and Christopher Luxon. Photo credit: Parliament TV

Bryce Edwards, a political scientist from Victoria University, told AM Early on Thursday no one will be surprised by the latest poll results.

But despite that, Edwards believed the results are still "quite shocking" telling AM Early fill-in host Isobel Ewing Labour will be very worried. 

"We talk about the bandwagon effect in political science whereby people take their cues from polls, especially in the lead-up to an election," he said. 

"For wavering or undecided voters, they'll see the public is making an evaluation of Labour and moving away from Labour. They'll see Labour's unpopular and for those undecided voters, they'll be also uninclined to pick Labour as their choice in the lead-up to the election."

Edwards believes undecided voters will start thinking about other parties and shifting their support away from Labour. 

"It does really feel like the tide is going out on Labour and people don't like to back a loser. So the bandwagon effect will kick in," he said. 

Edwards believes Hipkins, who is in Lithuania for the NATO summit, will need to pull something out of the bag when he arrives back in New Zealand. 

He told AM Early Labour has yet to announce any massive policies to get their supporters excited and urged them to bring announcements forward. 

"He's going to have to, I think, bring forward some announcements to show Labour's got something to fight with. At the moment, they're putting up nothing to really give their side anything to have any hope for this election," he said. 

This could lead to a poor campaign Edwards believes, as Labour Party members and activists will be losing faith with the leadership. 

"It's very hard to rally the troops and get people out doorknocking, get people out campaigning when they feel they're losing faith in their leadership because a lot of left-wing people feel very strongly about progressive taxation," he explained. 

"The idea Chris Hipkins has just ruled out a wealth tax or capital gains tax will be demoralising because they want the state to have more resources to be able to deal with inequality, fix education, health, and infrastructure and by ruling this out, he sort of positions labour as a bit more similar to National." 

Edwards said Hipkins is in a tough situation because it's not just poor poll results he has to deal with.  

Since Hipkins took over as Prime Minister earlier this year, his Cabinet has been plagued by ministerial scandals. Before allegations of aggressive behaviour towards staff emerged against Kiri Allan earlier this month, Stuart Nash was sacked for sharing confidential Cabinet information; Meka Whaitiri abandoned Hipkins' Labour Party for Te Pāti Māori; Michael Wood was forced to resign as a minister after failing to declare conflicts of interest; and Education Minister Jan Tinetti was ordered by the Privileges Committee to apologise to Parliament for negligence.   

"He will be giving a strong message to his Cabinet and his Caucus not to step out of line, but of course, the more you play it safe the more you don't take any risks," Edwards told AM Early. 

"It's a bit of a reinforcing cycle. 'We've got to play it safe', Hipkins will be saying but at the same time that isn't needed for this time in the election campaign. They have to come up with something big. They've got to come out with something that will wow us, but I just don't know if that is in Hipkins personality or even Labour's kind of ideology at the moment, they sort of lack one." 

Hipkins, speaking from Lithuania where he's attending a NATO meeting, said he's received the message from the New Zealand public.

"Any poll result like that is disappointing but it is real, and I take it seriously," he told reporters after the Talbot Mills poll.

"I know the last few months have been a bit messy for the Government. We really need to return our laser-like focus to the issues that New Zealanders care about."  

Watch the full interview with Bryce Edwards in the video above.