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What New Zealanders think of Refugees and Immigration

Most New Zealanders want to keep accepting refugees, but a growing number perceive that immigration is putting too much pressure on public services.

Auckland, 20th September 2018 – A day after the government announced an increase in the New Zealand refugee quota, research company Ipsos New Zealand has released the findings of their third report on New Zealanders’ attitudes to refugees and immigration.

New Zealanders tend to feel positive, and increasingly so, about immigration and refugees:

Most New Zealanders want to keep accepting refugees, with 62% disagreeing with the statement “We must close our borders to refugees entirely – we can’t accept any at this time”. However, this is a decrease of 5 points from 2017, with slightly more people now feeling we should close our borders (29%, up from 26% in 2016).

• At 56%, slightly more New Zealanders feel confident that most refugees who come to New Zealand will successfully integrate into New Zealand, compared to 53% in 2016. In contrast, a third disagreed, indicating that a sizeable minority still question how well refugees can assimilate.

• 55% feel that immigration makes New Zealand a more interesting place to live, up from 49% in 2017.

• 51% feel that immigration is good for the New Zealand economy, up from 47% in 2017 and 51% in 2016.

Additionally, a similar proportion of respondents both agreed and disagreed with the statement, “There are terrorists pretending to be refugees who will enter New Zealand to cause violence and destruction” (40% combined disagree vs. 41% combined agree in 2018).

At 65%, more New Zealanders now feel that priority should be given to immigrants with higher education and qualifications who could potentially fill shortages in some professions compared to 58% last year.

Additionally, fewer New Zealanders feel that there are too many immigrants in New Zealand in 2018 (40%, compared to 44% in 2017; and that immigration is causing New Zealand to change in a way that New Zealanders don’t like (34% vs. 37% in 2017).

New Zealanders are becoming more apprehensive about the overall impact of immigration:

Despite New Zealanders feeling positive about what immigrants can offer New Zealand, the number feeling that immigration is having a positive impact has fallen from 47% in 2016 to 41% this year – and 53% feel that immigration has led to too much pressure on the country’s public services such as transport, health and education (similar to 2017’s level of 52%).

Commenting on the findings, Dr Richard Griffiths, Research Manager, Ipsos New Zealand, said: “During the past week there has been a range of issues reported by the mainstream news media about immigration and refugees. This includes the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressing an interest in doubling the quota of refugees coming into the country and the far-right Sweden Democrats taking eighteen percent of the vote in Sweden’s national elections last weekend . The results of our immigration survey are encouraging in how accommodating and approving New Zealanders generally feel towards immigrants such as them making our country a more interesting place to live or the perception that refugees will be able to integrate successfully into our society. The key to a successful immigration policy is felt to lie in encouraging immigrants with required skills and also ensuring that our public service and infrastructure can cope.

Carin Hercock, Managing Director, Ipsos New Zealand, added: “Net migration has been the main driver of population growth over the last five years, with our population estimated to have hit 4.9million in August, so understanding New Zealanders’ perceptions and attitudes to immigration is an important insight into how New Zealanders feel about the society and culture we live in. The fact that an increasing majority of New Zealanders agree that ‘new’ New Zealanders make our country a more interesting place to live is positive however there is also continued concern on the pressure immigration has placed on our public services. Ipsos will continue to monitor these attitudes over time.”

About this Study:

A total of 611 New Zealanders over the age of 18 answered questions about immigration that were part of the latest Ipsos New Zealand Global Advisor survey which ran from Friday 20th July to Wednesday 25th July 2018. Please note that the maximum margin of error for a sample of 611 at the 95% confidence level is 4%. A number of the immigration questions were also asked in 2016 and 2017 in previous Global Advisor surveys.

Our Global Advisor survey is run approximately 3-4 times per year in New Zealand and seeks New Zealand citizens’ opinions on a wide range of topics. The latest iteration of the Ipsos New Zealand Global Advisor survey covered topics that included immigration, cyberbullying, the Auckland regional fuel tax, the 3 most important issues facing New Zealand (Ipsos NZ Issues Monitor), and how people rate the government’s performance over the last 6 months.

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.


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