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PM's move catches voters off-guard

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 5/12/2016

Voters polled recently on the prospect of John Key stepping down as prime minister thought the idea was fanciful.

On Monday, he did just that - catching out not only voters but political colleagues and rivals alike.

Polling by UMR Research asked voters about two months ago if they could see Mr Key stepping down before the 2020 election and just 29 per cent did.

Of the 1000 eligible voters polled in late September and early October, 58 per cent thought he'd see out a fourth term with another 13 per cent unsure.

The confidence that he'd remain was even more pronounced among National voters with 67 per cent thinking he'd see out the full three-year term.

Voters were also asked who they'd pick as PM and National Party leader if Mr Key departed and Bill English, who has been endorsed by the outgoing leader, topped the names of those preferred.

He had support of 21 per cent, five points clear of Steven Joyce, followed by Paula Bennett and Judith Collins.

But such is the shadow that Mr Key's leadership has cast over the last 10 years of the party and eight years of the country that 45 per cent were not sure who they'd like to see as a replacement.

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