Perceptions of Asia
2015 survey

An Asia New Zealand Foundation survey finds New Zealand still has a long way to go in its understanding of Asia, despite high recognition of the region’s economic and cultural importance.

Watch a video slideshow of some of the survey's key findings

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of people who answered the survey, New Zealanders’ Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples 2015, said they knew little or nothing about Asia. This was despite the fact the vast majority of people (82 percent) felt it was important for New Zealand to develop economic and cultural ties with the region, and despite Asia being seen as the second most important region to New Zealand (behind Australia).

Yet, at a personal level, the survey also shows New Zealanders feel increasingly connected to Asian people. In 2015, about half (51 percent) of people reported having at least a fair amount to do with Asian peoples and cultures – up from 30 percent in 1998. Only a minority of people – 25 percent – felt Asian people did not mix well with New Zealanders; this is the lowest level ever recorded by the survey. Those who had more involvement with Asian cultures or knowledge of Asia reported more positive views about Asia and Asian peoples.

But the survey findings also showed increased concerns about investment from Asia and the impact of Asian buyers on the housing market. In 2015, nearly half (47 percent) of those surveyed believed New Zealand was allowing too much investment from Asia (up from 41 percent in 2014). Similarly, 48 percent believed Asian people were responsible for rising house prices (up from 39 percent in 2014).

Three-quarters of respondents recalled media coverage of Asia-related events in the period leading up to the survey, the highest ever percentage recorded. Most of this group recalled negative coverage.

Asia New Zealand Foundation executive director Simon Draper said the survey showed media coverage played an important role in influencing New Zealanders’ views of Asia. “The Foundation has been carrying out this survey for nearly two decades and the general trend has been increasing positivity towards Asia and its peoples. But we have seen a few peaks and troughs related to current affairs.

“The fact that media coverage is so influential shows our understanding of the region hasn’t yet caught up to our knowledge of Europe or North America, for instance. Fewer of us have done our OEs in Asia, or learnt about the region while we were at school.

“In 2016, New Zealand is connected to Asia in a way that it just wasn’t when the Asia New Zealand Foundation first carried out this survey in 1997. There’s no doubt that New Zealanders know more about Asia than they did then, but there is still a long way to go.

“What’s encouraging to us is that New Zealanders value their personal interactions with Asian people, want to learn more about Asian cultures and have recognised they need to know more about the region. The survey confirms that knowledge of Asia and contact with Asian peoples and cultures goes hand in hand with positive feelings about the region as a whole.”

Mr Draper says the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s job is to equip New Zealanders to thrive in Asia. “We see this survey as a useful tool for tracking our understanding of the region and its relationship with New Zealand.”

Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network members discuss the survey's findings with the Foundation's director engagement and research Pip McLachlan. Filmed on location at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington.

About the survey:

New Zealanders’ Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples in 2015 was prepared for the Asia New Zealand Foundation by Colmar Brunton. The results are based on 1001 randomly selected telephone surveys carried out in August 2015, and a follow-up online forum. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.

About 70 percent of those surveyed were New Zealand European/Pakeha, 11 percent were Māori, 4 percent were Asian.