31 January 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.

The Kiwis Count survey is an important part of our wider work programme on trust and confidence. We need to keep working hard to build and maintain it, because without public trust the Public Service loses its social licence to operate. 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 December 2022:  

  • 80% of New Zealanders trust public services based on their personal experience, continuing within the normal high range on this measure. 
  • Trust in the Public Service brand is 57% which is down from the previous quarter. Though this result is below the 69% peak in December 2020, it is still a strong result when compared to the highest result before COVID-19 (51%).
  • Trust in the private sector brand is 46%, lower than it was for the September 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 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. This quarter’s results for trust based on a recent personal experience with public services remains in the normal range. Trust in the Public Service appears to be returning to pre-COVID levels following the December 2020 peak but still remains higher than the highest pre-COVID-19 ratings from September 2018.

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. 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, except for people aged 55 to 64, who had an increase between 2021 and 2022. However, there is a lot of variation across the different age groups when it comes to experience of trust in the Public Service. 

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.

Why 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). 

Reasons given by respondents with high trust scores include:

  • Responsiveness — The provision of accessible and efficient services that meet the needs and expectations of the respondent. This includes interacting with friendly, empathic, and professional public servants, or accessing easy-to-use online processes. Respondents also noted that the Public Service was reliable, and they could be sure of assistance if needed, for example in an emergency situation.
  • General high trust in public services - Some respondents noted that they trusted the Public Service and there hadn’t been anything that had caused them to change that position. This was often related to the purpose of the Public Service being to help people.
  • Integrity-Respondents believe that the Public Service acts with integrity, honesty and political neutrality. This included the view that government organisations are open and transparent, and respondents have confidence in the systems in place that support public accountability. 

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

  • Lack of responsiveness — Some respondents noted that their 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 — Low trust is sometimes more general than just the Public Service, and includes government as a whole. Some respondents identified a personal, political, or ideological position for their lack of trust.
  • Inconsistency — Some respondents note some services are better than others and this results in a lack of trust. For example, some respondents had positive views of some agencies within the Public Service, but negative views of others.  
  • Lack of knowledge about public services — some respondents comment that they don’t know what the Public Service does and as a result, or have not had enough interactions to be able to trust.

About Kiwis count

Every quarter the Kiwis Count survey asks 1,000 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 latest quarter, data from 1,000 respondents was collected in December 2022. This provides a set of around 4,000 responses to date across the 2022 year, in addition to the data collected in previous quarters. 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