'I just don't believe your numbers': Paula Bennett in denial after horror poll

The AM Show 10/06/2019

National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett is in denial about the plummeting popularity of boss, Simon Bridges.

Two polls released on Sunday night showed if an election were held today, Labour would either retain power with support from NZ First and the Greens or possibly even govern alone.

The Newshub-Reid Research poll had the worst outlook for National, slipping to a 14-year-low of 37.4 percent - well behind Labour, who leapt to 50.8.

The problem appears to be Bridges, whose preferred Prime Minister support has dropped to 4.2 percent - significantly below his colleague Judith Collins, up to 7.1 percent. At those low levels, the results are well outside the margin of error.

But Bennett's not buying it.

I just don't think that that's true.

"I just don't believe your numbers," she told The AM Show on Monday. "I'm sorry, I really don't believe the numbers you put out last night are a true reflection of where it's all at... It's way better than that."

She defended Bridges, saying she "honestly" believes he will lead the party to victory in next year's election. Asked how much further National would have to fall before they rolled Bridges, Bennett said it was "not even in our reckoning".

"Labour just chopped and changed everybody five minutes, couldn't find where they needed to be. We are very confident in the leadership that we've got, the team behind him and the work that we're doing."

After losing the 2008 election, Labour churned through Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and lastly Andrew Little, who stepped aside just weeks before the 2017 election to make way for the rising star of Jacinda Ardern. She registered 49 percent support as preferred Prime Minister in the Newshub-Reid Research poll.

Paula Bennett puts on a brave face Photo credit: The AM Show

Bennett suggested the methodology Reid Research uses could be to blame. Unlike most other polls, a quarter of Reid Research's sample is found via the internet - making it easier to reach younger demographics.

"It's a certain demographic that do the online polling," said Bennett.

But all legitimate pollsters weights the results they get to reflect the demographics of the voting public, regardless of how they're sourced. And the TVNZ-Colmar Brunton poll also had Collins ahead of Bridges - albeit by a slighter margin, 6 percent to 5.

Bennett says the party's own polling shows him doing "a lot better" and needs more time.

"This is my fourth leader now - I've had Don Brash, John Key and Bill English, and now I've got Simon - and I've got to say he's made fewer mistakes than most of the others in their first couple of years as leader."

Bennett denied wanting the top job, saying being deputy suited her. But at the same time, she would "never say never" to continuing on as deputy under a Collins regime.

She's great, and she's got a real part to play in this team.

"She's doing a fantastic job. Get that woman attacking... and you can see how good she is at that."

Judith Collins. Photo credit: The AM Show

Political commentator Bryce Edwards told Newshub it's not surprising National would reject the Newshub-Reid Research poll, considering a slightly less disastrous one was released at the exact same time.

People are going to prefer the poll that gives good news to them.

But ultimately I think you do have to average the two polls, and even on that Labour's still well ahead of National."

Photo credit: Newshub.

But he urged caution on predicting Bridges' days were numbered, even as the nails are being hammered into his coffin.

"The fact we've had two polls out with very different numbers might speak to the fact people really are changing their minds a lot at the moment - there's a lot of volatility out there."

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Dan Satherley