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Jacinda Ardern’s Approval Rating at Its Lowest Since Becoming PM

As the country grapples with rising living costs and a Covid-19 outbreak, Jacinda Ardern’s approval rating has plummeted to its lowest level since she took office as New Zealand’s prime minister in 2017.

While Ardern remains New Zealand’s favourite prime minister by a wide margin, her popularity has dipped four points to 35 percent in the most recent 1 News Kantor survey. The Jacinda Ardern’s approval rating this year is her lowest since shortly before the 2017 election, when Ardern became prime minister. Her opponents on the right are still trailing by a wide margin, but new National leader Christopher Luxon has made tremendous progress, rising 13 points to 17 percent.

Jacinda Ardern’s approval rating came as New Zealand is in turmoil

The survey was conducted at a period of instability and change in New Zealand’s Covid response, as the country dealt with its first reports of Omicron outbreak in the community, as well as the end of a small but persistent Delta infection. The government recorded 34 new cases of Omicron on Thursday, but with instances appearing at weddings, airports, a music festival, and at least three cities, officials estimate the country to discover 1,000 cases every day in the following weeks.

Ardern told 1 News that the new findings were “still a really strong showing for us as government despite some really hard calls having been made, but calls that have put us in the best possible position to continue to take on this pandemic”.

“When I reflect on the last six months, it has been a really hard period for New Zealand and we have had to make some really hard decisions, but those are still decisions I absolutely stand by.”

Jacinda Ardern's Approval Rating at Its Lowest Since Becoming PM
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

The study also indicated that many New Zealanders were negative about their economic prospects, with 49 percent expecting the economy to worsen and 22 percent expecting it to improve. Over the last two years, that statistic has steadily declined in terms of economic optimism, and it comes as a growing proportion of New Zealanders are shut out of a raging property market and face rising living expenses amid relatively stagnant earnings. Inflation reached a 30-year high of 5.9 percent on Thursday.

Support for the Labour Party as a whole was constant at 40%, down one point. As a result, Labour may still form a government with its usual coalition allies, the Greens, who received 9 percent of the vote.

The most significant movements were on the right, when the National Party, under new leadership, reclaimed some support from the libertarian-right Act Party, which had thrived as the centre-right floundered. National increased by four percentage points to 32 percent, while Act decreased by three percentage points to 11 percent.

Jacinda Ardern chased by anti-vaxxers

As a vehicle of demonstrators chased the prime minister’s van, they yelled ‘shame on you,’ but Ardern said she is not concerned for her safety. This came as Ardern received the lowest support rating in her tenure as prime minister.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated “at no point was I worried about my safety” when anti-vaccination demonstrators followed her vehicle and pulled it to the side of the road.

Footage from the event, which occurred last week, has just been shared on social media. It shows demonstrators yelling chants like “shame on you” and “we do not consent” at the vehicle. A person recording inside a car can be heard stating “there’s Jacinda” and “Oh this is great, we’re on a chase.” The car chases the prime minister’s van, and at one clip, someone inside labels the prime minister a “Nazi” and screams numerous obscenities. When their car tries to stop the van, the van is forced to the curb to escape it, then continues on its way.

On Tuesday afternoon, when asked about the incident, Ardern replied it was “just another day.”

“At no point was I worried about my safety or the safety of anyone that was with me,” she said.

“Every day is faced with new and different experiences in this job … We are in an environment at the moment that does have an intensity to it that is unusual for New Zealand. I do also believe that with time it will pass.”

The incident comes amid a minor but significant increase in threats against politicians and public personalities participating in New Zealand’s pandemic response. Threats against MPs hit a three-year high in one month last year, according to police statistics published on 1News this week under the official information act. Threats against politicians serious enough to warrant a police report are still uncommon in New Zealand, with an average of approximately five per month by the end of 2021, but occasionally soaring to 16 per month.

The incidents, according to NZ Police, included threats to damage, harm, and kill politicians, including a person who threatened to deliver a bomb to parliament.

On Tuesday, Ardern stated that being subjected to such occurrences was part of the job.  “I see that as just being a reflection of the fact that we are the decision makers. And if people don’t like the decisions that are being made, then it’s us that of course will hear the feedback about that.”

Following allegations from MPs that they were being harassed by anti-vaxxers, New Zealand’s parliament increased security measures in late 2021, and parliamentary services established a modest fund to assist MPs in changing locks or security systems.

Jacinda Ardern's Approval Rating at Its Lowest Since Becoming PM: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern chased and yelled at by anti-vaxxers.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern chased and yelled at by anti-vaxxers.

Chris Hipkins, the covid response minister and leader of the house, told the media in November that one of his electoral offices had been subjected to frequent anti-vaxxer attacks, and that he had increased security. Having to implement additional security measures went against the open government that New Zealand cherished, he said.

“I’ve always believed that New Zealand parliamentarians being as accessible as we are is something special about New Zealand, and I’m generally reluctant to see that change,” Hipkins said in November last year.

“The actions of a small group of individuals is the problem here, and it would be sad to see the openness of our democracy being undermined by a small group of vocal and aggressive people.”

With over 95 percent of adults vaccinated, a large population of New Zealanders have backed the country’s vaccination push.

However, some people have fiercely opposed either vaccination or the requirements that have come with it: vaccine mandates encompass around 40% of the country’s workforce. People who do not have a vaccination pass are not permitted to dine indoors or attend high-contact establishments such as hairdressers and gyms.



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