31 October 2023

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

Providing insights on trust and confidence

The Kiwis Count survey gives valuable insight into people’s trust and confidence in public services. It asks respondents  why  they’ve given a particular trust score based on their most recent service experience and their overall 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.

You can find out more about our work on public trust and confidence and how we measure up internationally at Trust in the Public Service.

Latest quarterly results

Headline measures as of September 2023: 

  • 80% of New Zealanders trust public services based on their personal experience. This is slightly down from 82% last quarter but is at a consistent level of trust reported over time.
  • Trust in the Public Service brand is 61%, which is up slightly from 58% in the previous quarter.
  • Trust in the private sector brand is 51%, the same as it was for the June quarter.

The graph below shows the scores given for each quarter.

Results in 2020 identified a spike in trust in the Public Service. While some of this may be attributed to a 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. This quarter’s result for trust based on a recent personal experience with public services is within the normal range. Trust in the Public Service brand has dropped since the December 2020 peak but still remains considerably higher than the pre-COVID-19 ratings, which were around 50% or lower.

Demographic dimensions of trust

Aotearoa New Zealand is a diverse and inclusive society and levels of trust vary for different communities. Māori respondents tend to have lower trust as measured in the Kiwis Count survey and disabled people also have had generally lower levels of trust in the Public Service than non-disabled people.

June 2023 was the first time that the Kiwis Count collection included MELAA (Middle Eastern, Latin American and African) as a separate category under ethnicity. As only two quarters’ information has been collected so far, results are indicative only.

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 for trust in the Public Service brand. However, there is considerably more variation across the different age groups when it comes to experience of trust , with the oldest age group (65 years and over) consistently reporting most positively and the youngest group (under 25 years) being least positive across the latest 4 years.

The graph below shows the scores given for each year by several demographic dimensions — ethnicity, disability, 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.

Why people trust

A new question on drivers of trust was added into the survey for the September 2023 quarter as we were interested in understanding more about what factors influence trust in the Public Service. This question covers aspects of the Public Service Act 2020 including Public Service values and spirit of service, as well as covering elements of the OECD’s framework on the drivers of public trust.

Results show that high proportions of New Zealanders think the Public Service do their best to help New Zealanders (73%), treat people with respect (72%) and are generally honest (71%). Areas where people were less likely to agree was when they were asked if they thought the Public Service change services in response to feedback from the public (43%) and admit responsibility when they make mistakes (43%). It's worth noting that both of these questions had much higher rates of people responding that they don’t know how to answer it compared to any of the others.

About Kiwis Count

From June 2023, the size of the Kiwis Count sample has increased to 2,000 people each quarter (previously 1000) to allow for more robust and varied analysis going forward. Every quarter the Kiwis Count survey asks people about their trust and confidence in public services, as well as a range of demographic information that helps us understand who we’re listening to. In the September 2023 quarter, data from approximately 2,000 respondents was collected. This provides a set of around 5,000 responses to date across the 2023 year, in addition to the data collected in previous years. Legacy data — dating back to 2012 — is used to illustrate overall trends, primarily in the quarterly graph.

The Public Service Commission has run the survey continuously since 2012 and twice on a ‘one-off’ basis before this in 2007 and 2009. We provide information on this website about the changes in the survey over time. 

Kiwis Count survey methodology and archive