NEW POLLS SHOW GE INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT ELECTION ISSUE
Two new polls suggest the New Zealand's Prime Minister's vilification of the Green Party in her fightback over the corn-gate scandal may have done them no favours, but the polls also suggest the GE issue, which was already an important factor in the New Zealand general election, is now even more so with half or more of voters saying they would consider it when placing their vote. In factr, a quarter or more of voters, according to the polls, rate it as either very important or important in determining who they would vote for while a further 23 percent rate it is somewhat important. Experts are quoted as saying such a shift could be enough to force Labour, who have always been expected to win, to think again after the election about its intention not to extend the moratorium.
Greens losers in corngate
Sunday Star Times, Sunday 14 July 2002
The Greens have taken a surprise hit to their popularity over the corngate affair - while Prime Minister Helen Clark has emerged almost unscathed.
Now Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons is accusing Clark of turning opinion against them. The Sunday Star-Times and NFO New Zealand ran two polls last week to analyse the impact of the paintergate and corngate controversies on Clark's popularity.
The paintergate debacle also left her practically untainted the poll shows, with more than 70 percent of voters saying it had not changed their opinion of her character - or made them think more of her.
The corngate survey, conducted as Labour responded to claims of a government cover-up of the accidental release of GE corn, showed almost two-thirds of people had an improved or unchanged view of the PM's character. Only 26 percent thought less of her.
But 38 percent of people had changed their opinion of the Green Party for the worse. About 40 percent had not changed their views and 14 percent had changed them for the better.
Labour has accused the Greens of being behind the corn seed allegations - a claim they have consistently denied. The publisher of Nicky Hager's book Seeds of Distrust, which sparked the issue, is on the Greens' list.
Fitzsimons yesterday blamed Clark for the shift in opinion.
"The prime minister has kept on saying that we were behind it and that we played dirty politics. We had nothing to do with the book and all we have done is respond to the facts that are in it, not even the allegations that are in it," Fitzsimons said.
But the poll found that 28 percent of people thought it was now more important to extend the moratorium on the commercial release of GE organisms.
About 27 percent of people also rated the GE issue as either very important or important in determining who they would vote for. A further 23 percent said it was somewhat important.
Experts believe the shift may be enough to force Labour to look at its position on the moratorium after the election.
"That 28 percent (response to corngate) seems to me is something that the government after the election is going to have to give serious consideration to," said Victoria University political scientist Nigel Roberts.
He said the Sustainability Council's proposal of a five-year moratorium could well get more traction as a result.
Political scientist and Greens expert Tim Bale agreed, saying it showed if Labour were to extend the moratorium "it wouldn't be an unpopular move. I think it does indicate that people aren't really sure about lifting the moratorium".
Clark said through a spokesman that the poll results confirmed her expectation that it would be the Greens who got hit the most from the corn seed saga. Health, education and the economy remained more important to voters.
Hager said a poll finding that half of voters would consider the GE issue when placing their vote in a fortnight was "staggering".
"That just makes it all the more important that people like me provide information about what goes on when the public aren't involved in the three years between elections," he said.
Hager said the book was not politically motivated - he was not a Greens supporter and had voted for different parties over the years. The polls have a 4 percent margin of error.
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