NEW Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern faces an election in September, but the polls suggest she will win comfortably. Indeed, a poll released at the weekend found that support for Ardern’s Labour Party was currently standing at 60.9 per cent, the highest it has ever polled.

How popular is Ardern?

Even more popular than her own party, it seems. According to the same poll, 62% of those questioned want Ardern to continue as Prime Minister. By comparison, those who prefer the opposition leader, Judith Collins, who has only recently taken up the post, is a mere 14.9%.

Ardern, who turned 40 at the weekend, became New Zealand’s youngest ever Prime Minister in 2017. Her current popularity has been dubbed “Jacinda-mania” by some.

Is this all down to New Zealand’s response to Covid-19?

It’s certainly a large part of it. New Zealand, which has a population of five million, has had just over 1200 Covid-19 cases so far, and 22 deaths at time of writing.

“I would like to think the message we can take from this is the general support for the government's Covid-19 recovery and response plan,” Ardern said in the wake of the poll.

The praise for New Zealand’s pandemic response has drawn worldwide praise and elevated Ardern’s reputation.

Any other reasons?

Well, it must be said that the main opposition National Party has not helped itself. It currently stands at just 25.1% in the poll in the wake of a number of leadership changes. Collins is the fourth opposition leader Arden has faced. Her predecessor Todd Muller lasted just 53 days.

And then there are the scandals. Last week a junior caucus member of the party had to resign over allegations that he had texted pornographic images to several young women. Another party member was forced to quit a few weeks ago after leaking confidential Covid-19 patient details, a revelation that had a bearing on Muller’s decision to resign.

Scandals never help.

No, though it should be noted the Labour party itself has had two ministerial casualties recently. Just last week Ardern fired her immigration minister Iain Lees-Galloway for having an inappropriate extra-marital relationship with a staff member.

If this poll is accurate, what will it mean for the election?

It could mean that the Labour party will win 77 of the 120 seats in the New Zealand parliament. If that happens, Arden would be able to form a government without needing to seek a coalition with other parties. She currently governs in a coalition with the Greens and the nationalist New Zealand First Party.

Is there any hope at all for the opposition?

There’s the hope that the poll isn’t accurate. National Party deputy leader and campaign chairman Gerry Brownlee believes the poll might be a “rogue”. It is not in line with his party’s internal polls, he has said.

Ardern has admitted she is also a little sceptical of the poll. “I’m never complacent,” she said in its wake. But Labour has reported that its internal polls suggest that they are comfortably ahead.