Kiwis Count - Trust
Kiwis Count measures trust in public services in two ways: trust of New Zealanders based on personal experience of using public services and trust in the public sector brand (perception) – see figure 1 below. By both measures, trust (the percentage of people who answered a 4 or a 5 on a five point scale) has increased markedly since 2007.
Trust in the public service brand is measured by asking respondents: “Overall, to what extent do you trust the public service?” Trust in public services based on personal experience is measured by asking respondents to think about their most recent public service interaction. One of the subsequent questions is: “Thinking about your most recent service contact, can you trust them [public servants] to do what is right?”
Consistently, New Zealanders’ trust in public services by recent experience has measured much higher than trust in brand. The same result is found in Canadian research : “when citizens evaluate services they have used recently, they draw on particular memories of actual experiences. When citizens rate government services in general, they draw on opinions and possibly stereotypes of government, and these tend to be negative.”
In 2017 trust in public services based on personal experience was high at 79%, 12 percentage points higher than when first measured in 2007. The 2017 result is the same as 2016 and lower than 2015, but still higher than in 2014. It may be that the 2015 result, which saw an increase, is an outlier. The fall in 2016 was driven by a reduction from record 2015 trust levels in the health and tertiary education sectors. Trust in the public sector brand was 47% in 2017, two percent higher than 2016 and a new high. Trust in the public sector brand had levelled off in recent years, after increasing strongly from 2007 to 2013, but has increased in 2017.
Figure 1 Trust in public sector services based on personal experience and trust in the public sector brand
Distrust of the public sector (the percentage of people who gave a score of one or two on a five point scale) has reduced since 2007. In 2017, distrust in the public sector brand, at 11%, was eleven percentage points lower than in 2007 and distrust based on personal experience, at 7%, has dropped five percentage points since 2007.
Figure 2 Distrust in public sector services based on personal experience and distrust in the public sector brand
Trust in the public sector compared to trust in the private sector
Since 2012, Kiwis Count has measured New Zealanders’ trust in the private sector (“to what extent do you trust the private sector?”), to help benchmark the results for trust in the public sector. In 2012, New Zealanders’ trust in the private sector (40%) was very similar to the result for the trust in the public sector (41%). Figure 3, shows that since 2013, trust in the private sector has not improved (39% in 2017) and is eight percentage points below trust in the public sector (47% in 2017).
Figure 3 Trust in brand, public sector and private sector services
- There is no clear difference between regions in trust based on personal experience although the variation between regions has increased in 2017.
- New Zealanders living in Wellington and Canterbury have greater trust in the public sector brand than those in other areas.
- With the exception of 2016, from the first survey in 2007 to 2017 women reported higher trust in public services based on their personal experience (81% in 2017) than men, who rated their trust lower (78% in 2017).
- For trust in the public sector brand, men have consistently scored trust higher (47% in 2017) than women (46% in 2017).
- In 2017, people of Asian, NZ European and Maori ethnicity had relatively similar and high results for trust based on personal experience (78%-80%). Results for Māori for this measure used to be lower than other ethnicities but have improved since 2014. People of Pacific ethnicity were lower (61%) – this result should be used with caution as it is based on a small sample count.
- However, there are large differences in the results for trust in the public sector brand. In 2017, those of Asian ethnicity have the highest trust in the public sector brand (53%), followed by NZ Europeans (47%), then Pasifika (36%) with Māori much lower at 31%. Unlike trust based on personal experience, Māori trust in the public sector brand has not improved and the gap between Māori and non-Māori is now 18 percentage points, up from 8 percentage points in 2012.
Figure 4 Trust in the public sector brand by age group (2017)
- Those aged over 65 years of age have higher levels of trust in the public sector brand than other age groups. This illustrated in FIGURE 4.
- Those respondents aged between 65 and 74 years of age have the highest trust by personal experience. Most other age groups also have high trust by personal experience, except for those aged less than 25 years.
Figure 5 Trust by demographic breakdown
- In 2017, 70% of respondents with a disability scored a 4 or a 5 for trust based on personal experience compared to 80% of those without disabilities (a 10 percent difference, which is six percent larger than 2016).
- Respondents with a disability also have lower trust in the public sector brand compared to other respondents (40% vs. 48%).
- Respondents with a disability also have lower trust in the private sector (35%) compared to those who do not have a disability (40%).
- Trust from personal experience appears to decrease as household income increases. It is too early to say whether this is a long-term pattern, as household income has only been collected since 2015 and the pattern differed in previous years.
- Trust in the public sector brand is strongest in those earning between $50,001 and $100,000.
- Trust in the private sector brand also fluctuates, with those earning between $50,001 and $100,000 having the highest levels of trust.
- Those with a degree or higher qualification have much higher trust in the public sector brand (52%) than with those lower level qualifications (42%-45%). However there is no real difference when it comes to trust based on personal experience of public services or trust in the private sector brand.