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Concerns For The Economy Remain High, While Unemployment Drops Behind Housing Concerns

Auckland, 18 September 2020 – Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt by New Zealanders. Concerns surrounding the economy and unemployment increased to unprecedented heights in May 2020. In September concerns for the economy retains its position as the biggest concern facing New Zealanders. Although unemployment is still much higher than pre-pandemic levels, housing has now taken over unemployment, to take its position as the second highest issue.

The majority of New Zealanders (87%) are now comfortable with voting in an election, an increase from 60% during the Level 4 lockdown in March / April.

The Ipsos New Zealand Issues Monitor asked 1,000 New Zealanders to select, from a list of 20, the three most important issues facing the country and the ability of the country’s political parties to best manage these issues. The New Zealand Issues Monitor has been running since February 2018.

The top three issues facing New Zealanders in September 2020 are the economy, followed by housing / cost of housing and third place is shared by unemployment, healthcare / hospitals and poverty / inequality.

Other highlights from the key findings include:

  • The Labour-led coalition government’s performance retains a high rating in September 2020 (7.2 out of 10). There was a significant increase in May 2020 (7.6) from the pre-COVID wave in March 2020 (5.8).
  • The Labour party is perceived as being the most capable of handling 18 out of the 20 issues facing New Zealanders.
  • Environmental pollution / water concerns and climate change are the two issues where the Green Party is seen as most capable.
  • The majority (72%) of New Zealanders believe that we should keep our borders closed. However, this has been declining since the level 4 lockdown in March / April (87%).
  • Ahead of October’s election, New Zealanders’ level of comfort with voting in an election during a pandemic has increased to 87%, compared to 83% in July 2020 and 60% during Level 4 lockdown in March / April.
  • 77%of New Zealanders agree that they would get a COVID-19 vaccine should it become available.

Key Issues Facing New Zealanders:

The economy has been the main concern (42%) for New Zealanders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ipsos started running the New Zealand Issues Monitor in early 2018 and concerns for the economy were in the range of 9–14% through 2018 and 2019. However, this changed after the COVID-19 outbreak in New Zealand and economy moved into the top position in May 2020 (47%) and remains the top concern since then. 44% of people believe that the Labour Party is the most capable of managing this issue, followed by The National party, who saw an increase from 30% in July to 36%.

Housing / price of housing had consistently been the top issue since February 2018. Although the economy and unemployment have gained more concern during the COVID-19 pandemic, housing is now in second position (37% cf. 34% in July 2020). 44% of people believe that the Labour is the party most capable of managing this issue, followed by National (21%).

Unemployment remains in the top three issues despite a 10-point drop in July 2020 and a 4-point drop in September 2020. Unemployment saw a significant increase from 8% in the pre-COVID measure in March 2020 to 41% in May 2020. Around half (49%) believe that Labour is the party most capable of managing this issue, followed by National (26%).

Healthcare / hospitals and poverty / inequality have consistently been among the top issues faced by New Zealanders. 27% of people have selected these as the main issues in in September, consistent with July 2020. The Labour party is perceived as the most capable to manage these issues.

Government Performance

The Labour-led coalition government’s performance retains a high rating in September 2020 (7.2 out of 10). There was a significant increase in May 2020 (7.6) from the pre-COVID wave in March 2020 (5.8).

Females (7.5 out of 10) rate the current government higher than males (6.8 out of 10).

Labour is viewed as the political party that is most capable of managing 18 of the 20 issues facing New Zealanders today with a significant lead over other parties across many of these issues. The Green Party is seen as the most capable party to manage climate change (34% Green Party vs. 30% Labour Party and 11% National Party) and environmental pollution / water concerns (36% Green Party vs. 30% Labour Party and 14% National Party).

COVID-19 vaccine

Three out of four New Zealanders (77%) would get a COVID-19 vaccine if available (cf. 88% in Australia). People from Russia (54%), Hungary (56%), Poland (56%) and France (59%) are less likely to take a vaccine.

Among New Zealanders who disagreed that they would get vaccinated for COVID-19, potential side effects (49%) are their main concern. One in four feel that the vaccine will not be effective and a similar proportion feel that they are not enough at a risk from COVID-19.

New Zealand vs. Australia

When comparing the top-5 New Zealand issues with those of Australia, the economy (New Zealand 42% vs. Australia 56%); unemployment (New Zealand 27% vs. Australia: 44%); and healthcare (New Zealand 27% vs. Australia 29%) have emerged as common concerns.

There are, however, notable differences with the other top issues for the two countries including:

  • Housing is over twice as concerning in New Zealand (37% – #2 issue) than in Australia (16% – #7 issue).
  • Poverty / inequality is also more concerning in New Zealand (27% – #3 issue) versus Australia (14% – #8= issue); however, cost of living is worrying a similar proportion across New Zealand (22% – #6 issue) and Australia (24% – #4 issue).

Commenting on the Issues Monitor, Carin Hercock, Managing Director, Ipsos New Zealand, said: “New Zealanders are clearly concerned about the impact of Covid-19 on the economy, housing and unemployment, and theses are concerns also shared by Australians in their country. It is interesting to note however, that significantly more Australians select the economy and unemployment as one of their top three issues than New Zealanders do. Despite these challenging times the majority of New Zealanders continue to highly rate the Governments performance. "

Amanda Dudding, Research Director, Public Affairs, Ipsos New Zealand, added: “COVID continues to change the things that worry New Zealanders. While housing and poverty took up the top two spots during 2019, since COVID arrived, the economy has taken the lead. During 2018 and 2019, the National party dominated as being most capable of handling the economy, however this position was taken over by the Labour Party in May, after COVID hit New Zealand. While they’ve managed to retain this position, National’s perceived capability has increased over the past couple of months.”

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