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New Zealand Society Becoming More Conservative

9 August 2006

New Zealand Society Becoming More Conservative

A University of Otago study of consumer lifestyles reveals that New Zealand society is becoming more conservative.

New Zealand in the 21st Century: A Consumer and Lifestyles Study, released today by the University’s Consumer Research Group in the Department of Marketing, reveals New Zealanders are becoming more traditional in their viewpoints, with emphasis on marriage, the family unit, showing respect to one’s elders and attaining social recognition.

This report is the fifth major survey of its type to be carried out by the Consumer Research Group since 1979. The survey is one of the country’s major studies offering insights into New Zealand society within global, political, technological and economic contexts.

The 2005/06 survey of more than 3600 New Zealanders was conducted in November by Professor Rob Lawson, Associate Professor Sarah Todd and Dr Sian Evans. It comprised more than 500 individual questions.

Assoc Prof Todd says the aim of the study was to provide a snapshot of New Zealand consumers.

“We looked at trends and issues, including changes in the way people consume things, the impact of various technologies and government policies and changes in consumer segments identified in our previous studies.”

The previous study was conducted in 2000/01 and showed that family relationships were changing rapidly, with Kiwi families spending less time together and a disappearing middle class.

In contrast, the current study has shown a return to traditional family relationships and marriage as an institution, with respondents indicating a desire to spend more time at home with family and concern about working parents spending less time with their children.

“In part this could be a reaction to the establishment of civil unions in the period between the two surveys and also promotion of statistics showing that the number of marriages has in fact risen,” says Associate Prof Todd.

The survey also found New Zealanders have a more positive sentiment toward New Zealand as a place to live, no longer believing that one needs to go overseas to succeed, or that “most of what is good is borrowed from overseas”.

The report identifies a number of major lifestyle segments – Success-Driven Extroverts, Educated Liberals, Pragmatic Strugglers, Social Strivers, Accepting Mid-lifers, Young Pleasure Seekers and Conservative Quiet-Lifers – offering insights into socio-economic and demographic groups in New Zealand’s populace.

“Overall, the groups identified in this study continue to reflect trends, such as the aging population and the substantial divides in wealth that have grown between the most and least prosperous members of society,” Assoc Prof Todd says.

“This is apparent in the disappearance of the ‘Accepting Mid-Lifers’ as a defined group and the re-emergence of the ‘Conservative Quiet-Lifers’ as a segment – a trend toward New Zealand’s aging population with longer life expectancy.

“Other differences noted were the demographics of the groups. We noted more young females joining the ‘Success-Driven Extroverts’ group, while conversely, the age range of the ‘Pleasure Seekers’ group – a segment traditionally aligned with the hedonic Generation X cluster, has increased to the mid 40s.”

Other trends and opinions identified in the study include:

- New Zealanders across all sectors believe they are paying too much tax – a marked change since the previous survey.

- More New Zealanders are content with the current population size and do not support higher levels of immigration.

- For the first time since 1995, people believe racial issues are better.

- New Zealanders believe spending on health and education are the main priorities for government expenditure, followed by policing and the environment.

- New Zealanders have become more sophisticated consumers paying more attention to quality and service in addition to price – responding to “specials” and other deals on prices.

- More New Zealanders claim to use independent resources like Consumer magazine and check labelling for nutritional information.

- Consumers appear to be less concerned about avoiding foods with genetically modified components.

The study was jointly funded by New Zealand Post, Loyalty New Zealand and the University of Otago.


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