The Ipsos New Zealand Issues Monitor regularly asks over 600 New Zealanders to select from a list of 20 issues the ones that they feel are the three most important issues facing the country.
Since the tragic Christchurch events, there have been several marked changes to what New Zealanders perceive to be big issues:
- A 10-point increase in the proportion who consider “race relations & racism” to be one of the most important issues, up from 4% in early March to 14% in early April, now the 8th most commonly mentioned issue (up from 17th)
- An increase in “defence, foreign Affairs & terrorism”; this was the least commonly mentioned issue in March (1%) but was selected by 1 in 20 (5%) in April
- An increase in positive rating of the government for its job over the last 6 months with 60% rating them 7-10 out of 10, up from 41% in March
- An increase in the perceived capability of Labour to tackle these issues, with the proportion selecting the party as the most capable of managing “race relations & racism” up by 18 points in April
- A significant increase in Labour’s being perceived as the most capable of managing all issues across the board, including “crime, law & order, violence & anti-social behaviour” (up 15 points) and “climate change” (up 11 points), “taxation” (up 10 points) and “education” (up 9 points).
A change in focus
Along with marked increases in the stated importance of issues like “race relations and racism” and, “foreign affairs & terrorism”, other issues jumped to the forefront for many New Zealanders. The proportion selecting “poverty & inequality” rose from 24% in early March to 30% in early April.
With a shift in focus towards these issues, it is also interesting to note which issues have become less important following the Christchurch attacks.
Although “housing & the price of housing” remains the most commonly mentioned issue, the proportion selecting it dropped by 8 points from nearly half (49%) in March to just over 2 in 5 (41%) in April.
Meanwhile, “taxation” fell from 14% to 8% in April having only recently seen a marked increase in importance (up from 7% in September 2018).
Labour’s perceived capability has improved on every issue
In addition to asking what issues are important, the survey also asks the public to choose which parties they believe are most capable to manage each of the 20 issues.
In a seeming endorsement of the government’s response to the attack, nearly half (46%) selected Labour as the party most capable of tackling “race relations & racism”, up from 28% in March 2019.
For “defence, foreign Affairs & terrorism” the proportion selecting Labour has increased from 24% to 42%, whilst the proportion selecting the National Party on the same issue fell 8 points from 33% to 25%.
In fact, the Labour Party has improved its capability rating on every issue tested, including:
- “Crime, law & order”, “violence & anti-social behaviour”, where it has previously trailed the National Party as most capable, but now leads at 44% compared to National’s 22%
- For “Housing”, in early March 35% believed Labour were best placed to handle this issue, which increased to 46% in early April.
Commenting on the survey, Carin Hercock, Managing Director, Ipsos New Zealand, said: “The Ipsos New Zealand Issues Monitor is a survey we undertake regularly to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s important to New Zealanders. However, following the tragic events which took place in Christchurch on the afternoon of Friday 15th March 2019, we felt it was important to understand how the views of New Zealanders may have been affected. We, therefore conducted a second wave of the Issues Monitor in early April. When we compare the results of these two waves, we see some significant differences in the way New Zealanders are thinking about the issues that matter to them, as well as their perceptions of the performance of the government and their competence to deal with these issues. It will be important to understand the long-term impact of this event, so we will continue to monitor the issues that matter to New Zealanders throughout 2019.”
Amanda Dudding, Research Director, Public Affairs, Ipsos New Zealand, added: “There’s no doubt that New Zealanders view the issues our country faces through a different lens than they did in early March. In early March, ‘housing’ dominated, with ‘taxation’ increasing as the capital gains tax discussion was prominent. However, in early April, we see decreases in these two issues and increases in ‘racism & race relations’, and ‘defence, foreign affairs & terrorism’. There has also been an increase in the proportion of New Zealanders who see ‘poverty & inequality’ as an issue.
The government’s response throughout this difficult time has had a significant impact on the way New Zealanders perceive the current government and Labour’s ability to handle the issues facing New Zealand. This is not just across the issues that directly relate to the events of March 15 either. There is a halo effect that has increased their perceived ability to manage these issues across all of the 20 issues we measure.”
About the Ipsos New Zealand Issues Monitor
The first wave of 2019 was conducted between 8th and 12th March, but following the events of March 15th, Ipsos felt it was important to understand how the views of New Zealanders may have been affected.
Ipsos conducted a second wave of the Issues Monitor survey, completed by a total of 615 New Zealanders over the age of 18, during the period of 3rd - 6th of April. This has provided insights on how New Zealanders view different issues both before and after 15th March.
Please note that the maximum margin of error for a sample of 615 at the 95% confidence level is ±4%.
This study did not have any external sponsors or partners. It was initiated and run by Ipsos, because we are curious about the world we live in and how citizens around the globe think and feel about their world.