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 2018, 80% of New Zealanders trust public services based on their personal experience. This is 13 percentage points higher than 2007 and one percentage point higher than 2017. It is still one percentage point lower than the 2015 result, which may have been an outlier. Trust in the public sector brand is 50% in 2018, six percent higher than 2014 and a new high. Trust in the public sector brand increased strongly from 2007 to 2013, but this growth has levelled off in recent years.

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 one or two on a five-point scale) has reduced since 2007. In 2018, distrust in the public sector brand, at 12%, was ten percentage points lower than in 2007 and distrust based on personal experience, at 8%, has dropped four 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 public services. 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 (41% in 2018) and is nine percentage points below trust in the public sector brand (50% in 2018). The gap for trust between public and private sectors continues to grow in 2018.

Figure 3 Trust in brand, public sector and private sector services

Region

  • There is little clear difference between regions in trust based on personal experience, although the Wellington region has the highest level of trust.
  • New Zealanders living in Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury have greater trust in the public sector brand than those in other areas.

Gender

  • In 2018 men reported higher trust in public services based on their personal experience (81% in 2018) than women, who rated their trust lower (79% in 2018). This difference is not statistically significant.
  • For trust in the public sector brand, men have consistently scored trust higher (53% in 2018) than women (47% in 2018). The gender difference in 2018 was statistically significant.

Ethnicity

  • In 2018, people of Asian and NZ European ethnicity had similar and high results for trust based on personal experience (80% and 82% respectively). Results for Māori and Pasifika for this measure are relatively similar but significantly lower (70% and 71%), although Pasifika shows an improvement since 2017 (61%). The Pasifika result should be used with caution as it is based on a small sample count. Māori trust based on personal experience is statistically significantly lower than that for non-Māori in 2018.
  • However, there are statistically significant differences in the results for trust in the public sector brand. In 2018 those of Asian ethnicity have the highest trust in the public sector brand (61%), followed by NZ Europeans (51%), then Pasifika (39%) with Māori lower at 35%. All have seen an increase since 2017. However, over time the gap between Māori and non-Māori has increased and is now 17 percentage points, up from 8 percentage points in 2012.
  • Recent research using Kiwis Count data found that differences between ethnic groups in the types of public services they use is a driver of ethnic trust difference.

Figure 1 Trust in the public sector brand by age group (2018)

Age

  • Those aged over 75 years have higher levels of trust in the public sector brand than other age groups. This is illustrated in Figure 1
  • Respondents aged over 65 years have the highest trust by personal experience, followed by those aged less than 25 years.

Figure 2: Trust from personal experience by age group (2018)

Disability

  • In 2018, 77% of respondents with a disability scored four or five for trust based on personal experience compared to 80% of those without disabilities. This difference is not statistically significant.
  • Respondents with a disability also have lower trust in the public sector brand compared to other respondents (42% vs. 51%). This difference is statistically significant.
  • Respondents with a disability also have lower trust in the private sector (31%) compared to those who do not have a disability (42%). This difference is statistically significant.

Household income

  • Trust from personal experience increases as household income increases in 2018. However, the differences across income groups in 2018 are not statistically significant and this pattern was not always apparent in previous years.
  • Trust in both the public and private sector brands is strongest in those earning over $100,000 per year.

Highest qualification

  • Those with a degree or higher qualification have statistically significant higher trust in the public sector brand (57%) than with those lower level (45%-48%) or no (40%) qualifications. However, there is little difference when it comes to trust based on personal experience of public services or trust in the private sector brand.

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