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Trust in Public Services

Kiwis Count measures trust in public services in two ways: by perception and by experience.

Consistently, New Zealanders' trust in public services by experience (“Thinking about your most recent service contact, can you trust them [public servants] to do what is right?”) has measured much higher than the perception of trust (“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?”).

By both measures, trust has increased markedly since 2007.

Trust in public services by experience increased to 79% in 2015. This is a two point increase over the last year and a 12 point increase since 2007.

Perception of trust increased 13 points from 2007 to 2012 and has levelled out since then, oscillating between 41% and 45%. The 2015 result is 43%, two points lower than the 2014 result and 14 points higher than the 2007 result.

Figure 1: Experience and Perception of Trust in Public Services

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The percentage of people who do not trust public services has declined over 2015 after being static between 2012 to 2014. Distrust levels are lower than they were in 2007 and 2009, with perception of distrust now ten percentage points lower and distrust based on experience four percentage points lower in 2015 than 2007.

Figure 2: Experience and Perception of Distrust in Public Services

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The OECD states “trust in government is essential for social cohesion and well-being.”

In addition to conducting the Kiwis Count survey, the State Services Commission regularly surveys State servants’ perceptions on the integrity and conduct of their colleagues and managers. The Integrity and Conduct survey has consistently found that State servants rate the integrity and conduct of their colleagues and immediate managers highly. The 2013 Integrity and Conduct survey found that 89% of State servants agreed that the people they work with on a day to day basis demonstrate standards of integrity and conduct and 81% of respondents reported that they “go the extra mile” in working for their agency.

At the beginning of 2015, extra questions were added into the Kiwis Count survey to measure customers' views about whether they considered the public service staff they had dealt with in their last interaction with the public service had “gone the extra mile” for them. This was done to see whether the views of public servants about how they treat customers is matched with how customers themselves feel they are treated.

The results showed:

  • Of all respondents whose last contact with the public service was by visiting an office or location, receiving a visit, sending or receiving a letter, fax or email, 71% considered staff went the extra mile to help them get what they needed. Sixteen percent were neutral about this question and 12% of respondents answered in the negative (a 1 or 2 on a 5 point scale).
  • Of all respondents whose last contact with the public service was by telephone, 67% considered staff went the extra mile to help them get what they needed. 16% were neutral about this question and 17% of respondents answered in the negative.

The Kiwis Count trust results support the view that “the New Zealand State services are rated highly for their standards of integrity and conduct at the international level, and are considered to be one of the most transparent public services in the world”. International comparator measures of trust continue to rate New Zealand either at, or near, the top countries of the populations measured.

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