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 service 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: “Thinking about your overall impressions and from what you know or have heard from family, friends or the media, 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 2016 trust in public services based on personal experience was high at 79%, 12 percentage points higher than when first measured in 2007. The 2016 result is two percentage points lower than in 2015, but still higher than 2014. It may be that the 2015 result is an outlier. The fall in 2016 was driven by a fall back from record 2015 trust levels in the health and tertiary education sectors.
Trust in the public sector brand was 45% in 2016. This result increased 15 percentage points from 2007 to 2013. It has held steady since 2013, oscillating between 44% and 45%.
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 answered a 1 or 2 on a five point scale) has reduced since 2007. In 2016, distrust in the public sector brand, at 14%, was eight percentage points lower than in 2007 and distrust based on personal experience, at 10%, had dropped two 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 public services.
In 2012, New Zealanders’ trust in the private sector (40%) was very similar to the result for the public sector (41%).
Figure 3 below, shows that since 2013, trust in the private sector has not improved (39% in 2016) and is now six percentage points below trust in the public sector (45% in 2016).
Figure 3 Trust in brand, public sector and private sector services
- There is no clear difference in trust based on personal experience between regions although the variation between regions has reduced since 2012.
- There does seem to be a pattern that New Zealanders living in more urban areas (Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury) have greater trust in the public sector brand than those in other areas.
Figure 4 Trust by region
- From the first survey in 2007 to 2015 women reported higher trust in public services based on their personal experience than men but in 2016, for the first time, men have rated their trust (80%) higher than women (79%).
- For trust in the public sector brand, men have consistently scored trust higher (48% in 2016) than women (43%).
- In 2016, people of all ethnicities had relatively similar, and high, results for trust based on personal experience (78%-80%). Before 2016, trust based on personal experience for those of Māori ethnicity was lower than other ethnicities – this has shown a statistically significant improvement since 2014.
- However, there are large differences in the results for trust in the public sector brand: in 2016, those of Asian ethnicity have the highest trust in the public sector brand (59%), followed by NZ Europeans (44%), then Pasifika (40%) with Māori much lower at 32%. 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 the highest (15 percentage points) it has been since the Kiwis Count survey began in 2007.
- Those aged 65 years and older have much higher levels of trust (based on personal experience and in brand) than other age groups.
- In 2016, 76% 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 4 percent difference). Respondents with a disability also had lower trust in the public sector brand compared to other respondents. However, these differences are not statistically significant.
- Trust appears to increase 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.
- Those with a degree or higher qualification have much higher trust in the public sector brand (51%) than with those lower level qualifications (42%-45%). However there is no real difference when to comes to trust based on personal experience of public services.
Figure 5 Trust by demographic breakdown
With this report Kiwis Count has moved to reporting on a calendar (December) year basis, whereas in previous reports June years were used. To maintain consistency with this new approach, all results in this report for 2012 - 2015 have been recalculated based on calendar year data. This means some results are slightly different to those published in previous reports. See Background and technical information on Kiwis Count.