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Global Survey Shows New Zealand Is The Best Performing Western Country For COVID-19 Response

First-of-its-kind global survey reveals New Zealand is the best performing Western country for COVID-19 response

  • Ranked sixth with an index score of 56, New Zealand is the only Western country with a score above the global average of 45.
  • New Zealand’s political leaders rank in top three as rated by its citizens while other powerful nations fell short.
  • However, only 24 per cent of New Zealanders felt that business leaders responded well in the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The gap between the ratings of New Zealand’s political performance and business performance is the widest amongst the countries in the survey.

According to the findings from a first-of-its-kind global survey, New Zealanders are largely satisfied with their country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the country in at sixth place amongst 23 countries, and is the only Western country to score above the global average.

Jointly conducted by Singapore’s leading social research agency Blackbox Research and Toluna, an ITWP company and leading consumer intelligence platform which delivers Insights on Demand, the Toluna-Blackbox Index of Global Crisis Perceptions measured the sentiments of citizens from 23 countries towards their national COVID-19 crisis management efforts. This is assessed across four key performance indicators: national political leadership, corporate leadership, community, and media.


New Zealand: A strong performer in an index led by Asian countries

With an index score of 56, New Zealand is the only Western country with an index score above the global average of 45, indicating that citizens in Western countries are generally less satisfied with their countries’ performances. (See Appendix, Chart 1)

Australia, the United States (U.S.), as well as all four Western European countries – Italy, Germany, United Kingdom (UK), and France – were all rated below the global average, with France scoring lowest in the region and the second lowest globally at 26.

One factor attributing to New Zealand’s positive score is that an overwhelming 92 per cent of New Zealanders felt that the government keeping the public informed on the virus with accurate information had worked in their favour in managing the pandemic. (See Appendix, Chart 2)

David Black, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Blackbox Research, commended New Zealand’s cautious approach in handling the crisis and believed it was also key to the country’s favourable performance. He said, “We are seeing major cracks in self-belief across the Western world but New Zealand is an exception. This can be attributed to the approach that the government had taken to extend its initial lockdown measures despite witnessing dwindling cases.”

“It’s important to remember that New Zealand also had to deal with the tragedy of the Christchurch mosque shootings just a little over a year ago. This may be why the country is seen to be handling the current crisis better. There was a preparedness not necessarily evident elsewhere in the west. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s strong leadership in effectively curtailing the COVID-19 spread has certainly led to a favourable rating on the country’s crisis performance,” he added.

Meanwhile, with an index score of 85, China tops the index with the most citizens rating its performance favourably across all four indicators. Vietnam came in second (77), followed by a tie between the United Arab Emirates and India (59).

On the other end of the index, Japan ranks last with an index score of 16, due to its perceived poor political performance and business leadership, as well as lacklustre community performance. Countries like Hong Kong (27) and South Korea (31) also fared poorly with its citizens.

Confidence in national leadership strong

With the number of infections over 4.2 million worldwide, world leaders have seen their political leadership scrutinised by its citizens amid mounting pressures to stem the pandemic. For New Zealand, its political leaders rank third on the index, with 67 per cent of its citizens rating their leaders favourably, much higher than the global average of 40 per cent. (See Appendix, Chart 3) Comparatively, only 7 out of the 23 countries’ political leaders were rated highly for their crisis response by at least 50 per cent of its citizens.

Furthermore, 70 per cent of New Zealanders believed that the country’s top political leaders performed above their expectations. (See Appendix, Chart 4) Aside from New Zealand, Western countries including the U.S., Australia, Italy, Germany, UK, and France all had less than 50 per cent of its citizens report favourable ratings, with France faring lowest in the region and third-lowest globally at 14 per cent. (See Appendix, Chart 3)

Mr Black noted that the study confirms that the crisis has dented western psyches insofar of expectations about national preparedness in many areas. He said, “For many of these countries, this pandemic is unprecedented. Governments are still coming to terms with a crisis they did not expect, and public confidence suffered as a result.”

“Meanwhile, a significant part of Asia has had their leadership shaped by past epidemics, such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), which means citizens believe their governments will have in place the necessary measures when it comes to responding to similarly serious respiratory pathogens.”

Businesses not leading the way

However, New Zealand’s COVID-19 crisis performance was impacted by the dissatisfaction of its citizens with business leaders in the country. Only 24 per cent of New Zealanders believed that the country’s business leaders responded well in the crisis, which is below the global average of 28 per cent (See Appendix, Chart 5). In fact, the gap between the country’s political performance and business performance ratings is the widest amongst the countries in the survey, with a difference of 43 per cent (See Appendix, Chart 6).

Mr Black said, “While New Zealand has demonstrated strong political leadership, it is apparent that business leaders in the country are expected to have contributed more. Our findings also revealed that New Zealanders felt most strongly about top executives reducing their salaries to save jobs. This indicates that business leaders need to take on more active roles in offsetting the impact of such crises.”

Globally, China (80 per cent) and Vietnam (64 per cent) are the only two countries with more than 50 per cent of their citizens rating highly when it comes to their business leaders’ responses to the crisis. Meanwhile, France (10 per cent), Hong Kong (7 per cent), and Japan (6 per cent) fell behind as the most poorly rated.

Local wishlist sees full economic recovery, better pandemic tech

Once the crisis is over, the three things New Zealanders most want to see are: a full economic recovery within 6 months (62 per cent), adoption of better technology for contact tracing (57 per cent), and a fresh approach to international cooperation to deal with future health crises (54 per cent).

Commenting on the significance of the latest survey results, Mr Black said, “The survey findings have shown that the pandemic has dramatically shifted our worldview, and this will unequivocally change the way we approach governance, business, and healthcare moving forward.

“COVID-19 is not the first and will not be the last global pandemic. In order to rebuild public trust and confidence, leaders need to consider the lasting implications and impacts of the crisis in order to emerge from this crisis stronger and more resilient.”

Please refer to the Appendices section for more information and additional survey findings.

– Ends –

About the Survey

Blackbox Research and Toluna carried out an online nationally representative survey of n=12,592 across 23 countries, aged between 18 to 80. Quotas were applied for gender, age and socio-economic criteria, including education and household type, to ensure representative coverage. The statistical margin of error across the 23 countries surveyed ranges from 3-6 per cent. The survey was conducted between 3 April to 19 April. The field work was staggered through April starting first in Asia and finishing in Iran.

About Blackbox Research

Blackbox Research is one of Asia’s leading data content specialists and fully independent social research agency. We specialise in data content and provide research and affiliated data-plus communications services for business, governments and non-governmental organisation clients across Asia. In Singapore, Blackbox Research is recognised as the ‘go-to’ agency for community and policy insights, and enjoys a strong reputation as a reliable provider of insights on current issues and topics impacting societies across Southeast Asia. Blackbox also has expanded its reach across the region, covering all markets across Southeast Asia as well as China, India, and the greater East Asia region. Visit www.blackbox.com.sg for further information.

About Toluna

Toluna is a technology company connecting brands with consumers for digital qualitative and quantitative research. We deliver insights on demand through a full spectrum of end-to-end solutions that map customer journeys, develop new products and much more. Toluna is powered by an innovative platform, best-in-class methodologies and a community panel that is 30+ million members strong. An ITWP company, we employ 1,400 people in 24 offices across six continents. Please visit us at tolunacorporate.com.


  1. Global23 Index
  2. What worked and what didn’t
  3. Ratings for state political leaders’ performance
  4. Ratings for leaders living up to citizens’ expectations
  5. Ratings for business leaders’ performance
  6. Gap in ratings of pollical performance and business performance

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