The Roy Morgan group said latest public surveying showed that poverty and the gap between the rich and poor was now a priority issue for New Zealanders.
Roy Morgan said that early this year 34% of New Zealanders believed the economy or some kind of economic issue to be the most important problem just over a month before the first New Zealand Budget to be handed down by the new Labour-coalition Government.
At the time economic issues were mentioned by more electors than the next two most mentioned themes combined. Just under 17% mentioned housing affordability/homelessness and a similar number mentioned social issues.
A further 13% mentioned environmental issues and 10% government policy and human rights issue.
It was found that economic issues were dominated by poverty and the gap between the rich and poor. By comparison, only 4% of respondents cited unemployment and job security.
About 40% of Labour and Greens supporters nominated an economic issue as the biggest problem facing the country – higher than the national average, while only 28% of New Zealand First supporters and 30% of National supporters nominated economic issues.
Roy Morgan said analysing the responses more closely reveals poverty and the gap between rich and poor is the dominant economic issue for supporters of all four major parties though there are clear differences about the next most important economic issues.
In the governing Labour-led coalition the issue of poverty and the gap between rich and poor was the most important issue for supporters (28%) and Greens supporters (33%) while it was still the leading issue for New Zealand First supporters though only mentioned by 12% of their supporters.
For the main opposition National party poverty and the gap between rich and poor was mentioned by 14% of supporters, still enough to be the leading economic issue for National.
The pollster said that behind this leading issue, Labour supporters were more likely than supporters of other parties to mention cost of living, increasing prices, inflation and financial hardship and were also the only supporters to mention the recovery and re-building of Christchurch as the most important problem facing NZ.
National supporters were the most likely to mention economic problems including the economy, financial crisis, recession, exchange rate, high dollar and fuel prices (7%) and unemployment and job security (6%).
Greens supporters were easily the most concerned about poverty and the gap between rich and poor, but behind that leading issue were next most likely to mention economic problems including the economy, financial crisis, recession, exchange rate, high dollar and fuel prices (4%) and were the most likely to mention low wages (2%) of supporters of any party.
Supporters of a party often considered to be ‘economic nationalist’ lived up that billing, with supporters of NZ First most likely to mention both the need to increase exports (7%) and the problem of foreign ownership and selling NZ assets (3%).