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The Great Morality Debate: New Zealand's Response

21st August 2005

The Great Morality Debate: New Zealand's Response - Where is New Zealand's Moral Compass Pointing? -

Just how honest are we? The Sunday Star-Times asked New Zealanders a number of questions to find out exactly that in its Great Morality Debate, a nation-wide survey that elicited a whopping 10,000 responses from people throughout the country.

Results show that less than half of the respondents have thrown a sickie and only half of those again think it was okay to do so. Perhaps not surprisingly, those most likely to think throwing a sickie was okay were 16 and 17-year-olds with close to 40% saying lying to the boss about a sick day was acceptable compared with just 6.5% of those 65s and over.

And should our bosses be concerned?

When it comes to pilfering the stationery cabinet, one quarter of our survey sample (25%) felt it was okay to take work stationery home and keep it, and a third thought doing personal photocopying at work was also okay. Less than 10% of respondents thought it was OK to make long personal calls on a work phone or lie to get away early to another appointment.

Politically, Act supporters were more likely to think cheating in an exam or pub quiz was okay, Greens' voters were more likely to keep extra change from the supermarket, or file a dodgy insurance claim, while Maori Party supporters were most likely to admit to having thrown a sickie.

Interestingly the results once again showed that those in the capital city think somewhat differently to the rest of the country. Of all respondents Wellingtonians were more likely than people from any other area to say they would cheat in an exam (10.5% vs 7.5% total), cheat in a pubquiz (28% vs 20%), keep cash from a wallet on the road (12% vs 9.5%), keep extra change from the supermarket (36% vs 28%), make a dodgy insurance claim (11% vs 8%), throw a sickie (32% vs 23.5%) and keep work stationery (33% vs 24%). They were also more likely to have actually thrown a sickie with 55% of Wellington respondents saying they had done so, compared with 45% from other areas.

The survey also posed the question: ‘What is the minimum amount necessary to significantly improve your life satisfaction?’ Perhaps not surprisingly, the more money our respondents had, the more they felt they needed with a quarter of the $70,000-plus group saying $1 million would be the minimum necessary to improve their life satisfaction, compared with only 18% of those on $20,000-$40,000 a year.

Almost half of the United Future voters didn’t think more money would improve their lives (48%). Of National voters, 30% are happy with what they have, however this drops by almost half for Labour voters with just 16% happy with their current lot.

When it comes to giving back – it seems that the more money we have the less keen we are on giving. While nearly 75% of respondents felt an obligation to give to the needy respondents from the wealthier households were a little less likely to recognise the duty to give to the needy 73%.

Other questions asked respondents to choose the worst three vices from a list of eight. Nearly half of the respondents (46%) included excessive consumption and stealing a wallet 46%.

Only 14.5% of respondents included smoking cannabis in their top three, while being unfaithful topped the list of vices, making it into over two thirds (69%) of respondents worst three.

The Sunday Star-Times Great Morality Debate was conducted by Phoenix Research with respondents filling in the survey that ran in the Sunday Star-Times or completing it online at

Further results will be published over subsequent weeks in the lead up to the election.


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