A final Dispatch

In my final Dispatch from St Johnnysburg (from May NBR are only running blogs from NBR staff)  I focus on St Johnny himself:

However it is the qualities of the Prime Minister I want to explore. Why is he so popular, despite New Zealand having gone through a serious recession?

To put John Key’s popularity into context, I have looked both at historic polls within NZ, and ratings for other current national leaders.

Colmar Brunton for One News have been asking Preferred Prime Minister questions since 1984. Lange never made 40%, Palmer, Moore and Shipley gravitated between 20% and 30%. Jim Bolger fluctuated from 10% to 30%. Clark spent most of her nine years at between 30% and 40%, and dipped over 50% just once in June 2002.

Key has averaged 50.6% in his first 18 months of office.

But even more interesting is the approve vs disapprove ratings:

His approval rating is even higher. The latest TV3 poll has 69% of voters saying he is doing a good job, and only 16% (less than one in six) saying he is doing a poor job. Compare this to other national leaders:

  • John Key – 69% approve v 16% disapprove = +53% net approval
  • Angela Merkel – 55% approve v 44% disapprove = +11% net approval
  • Kevin Rudd – 50% approve v 41% disapprove = +9% net approval
  • Barack Obama – 48% approve v 46% disapprove = +2% net approval
  • Stephen Harper – 33% approve v 52% disapprove = -19% net disapproval
  • Gordon Brown – 33% approve v 61% disapprove = -28 net disapproval
  • Nicolas Sarkozy – 32% approve v 65% disapprove = -33 net disapproval
  • Brian Cowen – 27% approve v 69% disapprove = -42% net disapproval
  • Yukio Hatoyama – 21% approve v 64% disapprove -43% net disapproval

Key’s popularity soars above other national leaders – both long serving ones, and also those relatively new to office. His disapproval rating is between one third and one quarter of all the other leaders.

It was only in writing the column that I searched for the approval ratings for the leaders of Germany, Australia, US, Canada, UK, France, Ireland and Japan. I was surprised by the huge gap (especially in disapprovals) between Key and his counterparts.

As for why I think Key is so popular – well I explain that in full at NBR. However here’s one thing I don’t think it is about:

This is not some fluke or coincidence. There is a reason, or reasons for it.

Some point to policy reasons – the fact he has run a reasonably moderate policy regime. I am sure this has helped, but being moderate in itself does not make you popular. It is more a pre-condition (except in times of crisis) than a cause.

My thanks to NBR for the platform for the last two to three years.

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