The Kiwis Count survey measures the trust and confidence of New Zealanders in the Public Service.

The survey gives the government a valuable insight into New Zealander’s views, trust and confidence in government and its role in society. The information gathered also identifies what drives high trust and where there are opportunities to improve public service. Results are shared with the public and given to agencies to help identify areas where issues may be developing and remedial action might need to be taken.

Latest quarterly results

Headline Measures as at July 2021:

  • 81% of New Zealanders trust public services based on their personal service experience.
  • Trust in the public service brand sits at 63% - the same as last quarter and whilst down from 69% last year represents a strong result in comparison to the 51% pre Covid-19.
  • Trust in the private sector brand is 48%, down from 50% in the last quarter and the same as December 2020.
  • Trust in public services demonstrates a continuing trend of improvement, reflecting increased trust and confidence in public services.

The graph below shows the scores given for each quarter.

Results from 2020 identified a spike in trust and confidence in the government and whilst some of this may be attributed to a recent change in methodology, some of it is likely to be related to Covid-19 as the public service was core to the national response to the pandemic in 2020. The expected ‘normalisation’ of the results as the NZ Covid-19 context has moderated is likely to be behind the reduction in the trust and confidence score, although it is still higher than pre-covid 19.

There is a gap in the survey results for 2020 due to the Covid -19 lockdown and a number of technical issues that prevented the survey from running. See information here on the changes in the survey over time.

Ethnic differences in trust

New Zealand is a diverse and inclusive society. The Kiwis Count survey looks at trust in the public services through the lens of ethnicity. The graph below shows the scores given for each year by ethnicity.

Levels of trust vary for different communities. Māori and Pacific respondents tend to have lower trust as measured in the Kiwis Count survey. A number of factors contribute to this lower level of trust, which include the ‘mix’ of services used being more oriented towards compliance and welfare.

Why do people trust?

In addition to asking the New Zealand public to rate their trust and confidence in public services, the survey asks respondents why they have given the Public Service a particular trust score (the score is given on a scale of 1 to 5) through service experience and through perception of the public service (the public service brand). For simplicity these are given in terms of reasons for (or enablers of) high trust (4 or 5 on the scale) and causes of low trust (1, 2 or 3 on the scale). In the survey between October 2020 and June 2021, a total of 2,304 reasons for high public trust were given. These reasons include:

Responsiveness is the provision of accessible, efficient services that meet the needs and expectations of the respondent. This is a key building block in New Zealanders trusting the Public Service and occupies a core place in the OECD’s policy dimensions influencing trust in public institutions[1].

General high trust in public services. Respondents often noted that they trusted the Public Service and there hadn’t been anything to change that position. This suggests that making sure all interactions with the public service maintain or improve this trust is important.

Reliability. Respondents often noted that the Public Service was reliable and they could be sure of assistance if needed. This is particularly important in times of national emergency or national response such as earthquakes or global pandemic and underlines great public services. this is very much related to the previous high trust comment.

Integrity. Respondents believe that the public service acts with integrity. A recognition that public servants are honest and politically neutral was the next most common area mentioned. This included the view that government agencies are open and transparent, and respondents have confidence in the systems in place that support accountability. This is highlighted in other research into trust and confidence as a key component of trust in government and is important to maintain.

Conversely, the main reasons for low public trust to varying degrees include:

Lack of responsiveness. Whilst for respondents with high trust this area talks to the provision of accessible, efficient services that meet the needs and expectations of the respondent, for those with low trust lack of this focusses on similar issues but strongly reflects a lack of communication and issues with the speed of service (i.e. not meeting respondents needs).

General lack of trust in government/ public services. Many respondents stated that they do not trust the Public Service. This lack of trust doesn’t appear to be grounded in a specific reason or experience, with political slant and ideological position noted as a reason but it is not clear why this lack of trust is so entrenched, or indeed whether this can be shifted.

Inconsistency. Some respondents note that service provision and experience is inconsistent and this results in a lack of trust and confidence in the public service. Some respondents note inconsistency between different staff members, whilst in other cases the context for the inconsistency are not stated, although differences in location of service may exist.

Lack of knowledge about public services. Respondents often comment that they don’t know what the public service does and consequently because of this, do not trust it. Part of this is that they may not identify certain services with Public Service institutions and whilst they may trust the service, this does not necessarily translate to trusting the institution.

About this survey

Every quarter the Kiwis Count survey asks 1,000 people about their trust and confidence in government and public services as well as a range of demographic information that helps Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission understand who we are listening to. In the latest quarter, data from 3,000 informants was collected in late June 2021. This, in addition to the data collected in previous quarters set of 6,000 informant responses for the 2020/21 financial year. Legacy data – primarily dating back to 2012 – is used to illustrate overall trends, primarily in the graphs.


[1] More details are available here:

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