Auckland, 25 May 2020 – The economy has moved into the number one issue of concern for 47% of New Zealanders in our latest New Zealand Issues Monitor, which is an almost fourfold increase from 13% in March 2020. Like the economy, unemployment also moved up from a historically low position to take the second ranked position in our Issues Monitor. These significant changes are clearly reflective of the unprecedented challenges faced as the country entered Alert Level 2 of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ipsos New Zealand Issues Monitor asked 1,000 New Zealanders to select from a list of 20 the three most important issues facing the country and the ability of the country’s political parties to best manage these issues. Additionally, respondents were asked questions about the May 2020 Budget and their quality of life. The New Zealand Issues Monitor has been running since February 2018.
The top three issues facing New Zealanders in May 2020 are the economy, followed by unemployment with housing / cost of housing in third position. Healthcare / hospitals and poverty / inequality occupied the fourth and fifth positions respectively.
Other highlights from the key findings include:
- The Labour-led coalition government has recorded its highest rating since winning the 2017 General Election (7.6 out of 10).
- Although ranked the fourth most important issue, healthcare / hospitals were viewed as less of an issue than the economy, unemployment and housing / price of housing even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Forty percent of New Zealanders are optimistic that the May 2020 Budget will get the country’s economy back on track in the future.
- Forty-nine percent of respondents also indicated that their current quality of life is very good at a time when COVID-19 has brought major changes to New Zealanders’ lives.
Key Issues Facing New Zealanders:
The economy has moved into the top position with 47% and is the first time since Ipsos started running the New Zealand Issues Monitor in early 2018 that it has taken the number one position. Housing / price of housing had previously been the top issue since February 2018.
Unemployment is the second highest ranking issue with 41% considering it as a top issue. Like the economy, it has never been in the top 5 issues since measurement began.
Housing / price of housing is the third biggest issue for New Zealanders with 33%, with healthcare / hospitals next at 25% and poverty / inequality and inflation / cost of living very close behind with 24% and 23% respectively.
Climate change (16%) and crime / law and order (12%) have both seen decreases since the November 2019 New Zealand Issues Monitor was released. Although climate change occupied a similar position as the sixth most important issue (#7 in May 2020), crime / law and order has dropped from number five down to number 10 on our issues list.
Quality of Life
Additionally, we asked questions relating to New Zealanders’ quality of life. When asked whether their current quality of life is very good, 49% were in agreement with this statement, a similar result to the previous measure in October 2019, indicating that the pandemic has not made a significant impact on perceived quality of life in New Zealand. A similar proportion (46%) indicated that they expect their overall quality of life to be better in five years’ time than it is at present.
A further question was asked to gauge the extent to which respondents either agreed or disagreed with a statement about the May ’20 Budget getting the country’s economy back on the right track. Forty percent of New Zealanders agreed with the statement while only 17% disagreed. About a third neither agreed nor disagreed while 11% indicated they didn’t know.
The Labour-led coalition government has enjoyed its highest rating since it won the General Election in 2017 (7.6 out of 10). Significantly, this result eclipses its previous top rating which it earned following the Christchurch terror attacks in March 2019 (6.6 out of 10 in April ’19).
In relation to this, Labour is viewed as the political party that is most capable of managing 18 of the 20 issues facing New Zealanders today. The Labour Party also enjoyed significant increases in capability across 15 issues. The Green Party on the other hand is seen as the most capable party to manage climate change (37% Green Party vs 28% Labour Party and 9% National Party) and environmental pollution / water concerns (37% Green Party vs. 28% Labour Party and 11% National Party).
New Zealand vs. Australia
When comparing the top-5 New Zealand issues with those of Australia, our Trans-Tasman neighbours have also seen the economy and unemployment become the top two respective concerns (economy: New Zealand 47% vs. Australia: 53%; unemployment: New Zealand 41% vs. Australia 43%). Other common issues between the two countries include inflation / cost of living (#4= issue in Australia with 24% vs #6= issue in New Zealand with 23%) and crime / law and order (#6 issue in Australia with 15% vs #10 issue in New Zealand with 12%).
There were, however, notable differences with the other top issues for the two countries including:
- Housing is over twice as concerning in New Zealand (33% – #1 issue) than in Australia (15% – #6 issue).
- Poverty / inequality is also more concerning in New Zealand (24% – #5 issue) versus Australia (14% – #8= issue).
- Healthcare / hospitals are more of a concern in Australia (36% - #3 issue) than in New Zealand (25% – #4 issue).
Commenting on the Issues Monitor, Carin Hercock, Managing Director, Ipsos New Zealand, said:
“Covid-19 has dramatically increased New Zealanders concerns about our economy and the impact this will have on unemployment levels. While it may seem surprising that these issues have shot up more significantly than their concerns around Healthcare and Hospitals, our research throughout the COVID-19 crisis has told us that people feel less personally impacted by COVID-19 as a health issue, than they do as an economic issue. We observed quite high personal anxiety levels about the health threat of Covid-19 prior to lockdown, however our success in containing the virus has seen anxiety levels of the health issue steadily decline and we have avoided significant impact on our Healthcare and Hospitals. At Ipsos we believe that now, more than ever, it is important to understand the thoughts and feelings of New Zealanders especially in the context of our changed world”.
Amanda Dudding, Research Director, Public Affairs, Ipsos New Zealand, added:
“It is interesting to compare New Zealand’s results with Australia. Prior to COVID-19 New Zealanders were most concern about Housing and as Australia was heavily impacted by bush fires early in the year, the environment shot up to become their number one issue. Now for the first time both countries are aligned with the economy and unemployment being their top two issues.”
About the Ipsos New Zealand Issues Monitor
The Ipsos New Zealand Issues Monitor provides all respondents with the opportunity to say what they think are the three most important issues facing New Zealand at the current time. Additionally, people are able to have their say about which political parties they think are most capable of managing the most significant issues facing our society. They are also asked to rate the government on its performance over the previous six months. This survey is run approximately 3–4 times per year.
The eighth and current wave of 2020 was carried out between 15th and 18th May 2020 and was completed by 1,000 New Zealanders aged 18 and older.