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Inside the Kiwi mind: Poll results

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COMMENTS

12 April 2011 12:57

Dr Andrew Butcher is the Director, Policy and Research at the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

Australia is more important to New Zealand than any other region or country in the world.

In the Asia New Zealand Foundation's latest annual survey of New Zealanders perceptions of Asians and Asian people, 86 percent of New Zealanders rate Australia as important to New Zealand's future. Next on the list, Asia is rated at 77 percent.

But all regions were less important to New Zealand in 2010 than in 2009. Across the decade 2000-2010 there are two spikes in importance (2002 and 2009).

The first spike we attribute to the impact of the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001. The second spike we attribute to the global financial crisis. Despite being a geographically isolated country at the bottom of the world, these two events keenly illustrated New Zealand's connectivity with the world.

For the first time, the survey asked 'how much of an impact do you think conflicts, threats or instabilities in Asia could have on New Zealand'' Underlining New Zealand's global connectivity, a staggering 80 percent of New Zealanders think these will have 'some' or a 'significant' impact. 

The survey also asks, unprompted, which countries New Zealanders first think of when they think of Asia. Overwhelmingly, echoing past surveys, China tops the list (53 percent first think of it), with Japan someway behind (14 percent).

Yet, New Zealand's largest Asian neighbour, Indonesia, comes in at number ten (1 percent), clustered amongst other Southeast Asian countries, with the exception of Thailand (7 percent), which surprisingly is number four on the list, only one percentage point away from India (8 percent), at number three.

This list doesn't reflect New Zealand's Asian populations (the Japanese population in New Zealand is relatively small, while the Indian and Chinese populations are the largest).

When putting together all mentions of an Asian country (i.e. first and subsequent mentions), China is named by 84 percent of New Zealanders, with Japan twenty percentage points behind and Thailand takes third place from India, with 35 percent mentioning it.

When comparing the results of Australia and New Zealand, New Zealanders appear to express warmer feelings when asked to think about people from Japan (73 percent in New Zealand compared with 66 percent in Australia), India (68 percent in New Zealand compared with 56 percent in Australia) and China (68 percent in New Zealand compared with 53 percent in Australia).

New Zealanders perceptions toward Asia are contradictory. On one hand, New Zealanders like the economic benefits Asia bring to New Zealand: 91 percent agree that exports from New Zealand to Asia and 89 percent agree that Asian tourism in New Zealand will have a positive impact, while 79 percent see the economic growth with the Asian region and 78 percent see FTAs between NZ and Asian countries as positive. 

Consistent with 2009 (and reflecting 2007 levels) 63 percent see imports from Asia positively.

On the other hand, less than half of New Zealanders (49 percent) see Asian immigration to New Zealand positively, with fewer still (43 percent) seeing population growth in Asia positive. Both of these ratings have seen hardenings of attitudes since 2009 and in both cases are the lowest ratings since these questions were first asked in 2007. 

These findings, reflecting international surveys, are probably due to the economic recession (which is now technically over in New Zealand), though economic vulnerability is felt keenly by many New Zealanders.

Negative media coverage, especially of the Delhi Commonwealth Games and prospective Chinese investment in several large New Zealand dairy farms, also played a significant part in shaping the results.

But while New Zealanders aren't as warm as we used to be about Asia and Asian peoples, we're still much warmer than our Australian friends, according to Lowy's poll.

Photo by Flickr user gomattolson.

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