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

The survey gives valuable insight into people’s views, trust and confidence in government and its role in society. It asks respondents why they’ve given the Public Service a particular trust score through service experience and through perception of the Public Service (the Public Service brand). The information gathered also identifies what drives high trust and where there are opportunities to improve public services. Results are shared with the public and given to agencies to help identify areas where issues may be developing, and where remedial action might be needed. Te Kawa Mataaho has been running the survey continuously since 2012 and twice on a ‘one-off’ basis before this in 2007 and 2009.

Latest quarterly results

Headline measures as of March 2022:

  • 80% of New Zealanders trust public services based on their personal experience
  • Trust in the Public Service brand sits at 61%, which is down from the December 2021 quarter. Though this result is below the 69% of 2020, it is still a strong result when compared to the highest result before COVID-19 (51%)
  • Trust in the private sector brand is 49%, the same as the December quarter.

The graph below shows the scores given for each quarter.

 

Results in 2020 identified a spike in trust and confidence in government. While some of this may be attributed to a recent change in methodology, some of it’s likely to be related to COVID-19, as the Public Service was central to the national pandemic response in 2020. The expected ‘normalisation’ of the results as New Zealand’s COVID-19 situation evolves is likely to be behind the reduction in the trust and confidence score in recent quarters, although it’s still higher than the highest pre-COVID-19 rating in September 2018.

There’s a gap in the survey results for 2020, due to a number of issues including the COVID-19 lockdown. For information on the changes in the survey over time, see Kiwis Count archive including the survey methodology.

Demographic dimensions of trust

New Zealand is a diverse and inclusive society. The graph below shows the scores given for each year by several demographic dimensions – ethnicity, age, region of residence and gender. Scores have been aggregated on an annual basis to reduce the volatility caused by small sample sizes for some dimensions. This means that the latest year’s scores are provisional year-to-date estimates until the December quarter results are released.

 

Levels of trust vary for different communities. Māori respondents tend to have lower trust as measured in the Kiwis Count survey. There are small differences by gender; however, this difference is within the margin of error for the survey. Most age groups follow the general trend over time except for people aged 55–64 in 2022, who had an increase in trust.

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’ve given the Public Service a particular trust score. For simplicity, these are given in terms of reasons for 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 December 2021, a variety of reasons for high public trust were given.

Reasons given by respondents with high trust scores 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 is central to the OECD’s policy dimensions influencing trust in public institutions (see Trust in Government).

General high trust in public services. Respondents often noted that they trusted the Public Service and there hadn’t been anything that had caused them to change that position. This remains a strong presence in the responses.

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.

Integrity. Respondents believe that the Public Service acts with integrity, honesty and political neutrality. 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.

Conversely, the main reasons given by respondents with a lower trust score include:

Lack of responsiveness.  Where there’s a lack of responsiveness, and correlating lower trust, respondents needs weren’t being met, with a lack of communication, and issues with the speed of service identified.

General lack of trust in government and public services. For some respondents, the lack of trust doesn’t appear to be grounded in a specific reason or experience. Some respondents identified a political or ideological position as a reason for their general lack of trust.

Inconsistency. Some respondents note that service provision and experience is inconsistent, and this results in a lack of trust. For example, some respondents note inconsistency between different staff members.

Lack of knowledge about public services. Respondents often comment that they don’t know what the Public Service does and as a result, don’t trust it. Part of this is that they may not identify certain services with Public Service institutions and though they may trust the service, this doesn’t necessarily mean they trust 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’re listening to. In the latest quarter, data from 1,000 informants was collected in March 2022. This provides a set of 8,000 informant responses to date across the three years that this survey has operated and is added to data from past surveys. Legacy data – dating back to 2012 – is used to illustrate overall trends, primarily in the quarterly graph.

Last modified: