Survey shows increased feelings of warmth towards Asian people

13 April 2012

The Rugby World Cup and the shared tragedies of earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan contributed to New Zealanders feeling warmer towards Asian people in 2011, an Asia New Zealand Foundation (Asia:NZ) survey has found.

The foundation’s latest Perceptions of Asia survey shows more than four out of five New Zealanders (83 percent) see the Asian region as important or very important to New Zealand's future - the highest level in the past decade.

The annual research also reveals increased feelings of warmth amongst New Zealanders toward Asian people.  The Rugby World Cup – which helped people “come together” – played an important role in positive attitudes, while the shared tragedies of the earthquakes in Christchurch and Japan generated feelings of empathy and sympathy.  Assistance received from Asian countries following the February 22, 2011 earthquake in Christchurch also helped generate warmth among New Zealanders toward Asians.

Recognition of the economic benefits of a relationship with Asia has continued to increase, with 93 percent of those surveyed agreeing exports to Asia and Asian tourism in New Zealand will have positive impacts on New Zealand in the next two decades.  New Zealanders also felt more positive about immigration, imports from Asia, and Asian cultures and traditions.

Asia New Zealand Foundation chairman Philip Burdon says that over time the report, which was first carried out in 1997, has reflected a growing recognition amongst New Zealanders that Asia is important to New Zealand.

“It’s heartening the survey shows four out of five New Zealanders agree that Asian immigrants contribute significantly to this country, and bring a valuable cultural diversity.

“But there are clearly still challenges - more than half of those surveyed believe New Zealand needs to do more to prepare our young people to engage confidently with Asia.”

Fieldwork for the 2011 survey overlapped with Rugby World Cup, and was carried out fewer than six months after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

In an audio interview accompanying the survey, media consultant and Asia New Zealand Foundation trustee Trish Carter says:  “In 2010, we had antipathy.  In 2011, we had empathy.  And both of those were related to two significant events.  One was the Delhi Commonwealth games in 2010 … And in 2011, you had the ties-that-bind story, which is Christchurch and Japan.”

The Perceptions of Asia survey was prepared for the Asia:NZ by Colmar Brunton. The results are based on 1,105 telephone interviews carried out between September 5 and October 5, 2011, and a follow-up online forum.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation (Asia:NZ), founded in 1994, is the leading public-private organisation in this country involved in increasing New Zealanders’ knowledge and understanding of Asia.  It runs a series of programmes, both within New Zealand and in Asia.

Other survey findings

  • Eighty-three percent of New Zealanders agreed Asian people contribute significantly to New Zealand society, while 78 percent agreed Asian immigrants brought a valuable cultural diversity to New Zealand.
  • Negative feelings about Asian immigrants decreased in 2011.  The proportion of people who believed Asian immigrants took away jobs from New Zealanders fell from 29 percent in 2010 to 25 percent in 2011; while the proportion who felt Asian people did not mix well with other New Zealanders fell from 40 percent in 2010 to 35 percent in 2011.
  • Seventy percent of respondents believed Asian people could do more to learn about New Zealand culture, while 60 percent believed New Zealand needed to do more to help New Zealanders understand Asian cultures and traditions. Fifty-six percent thought more needed to be done to prepare young people to engage confidently with Asia.
  • When New Zealanders thought about Asia, they tended to mention China or Japan first (54 percent mentioned China first; 18 percent mentioned Japan first).  Fewer thought of Southeast Asian countries.
  • A new section was devoted to New Zealanders’ understanding and knowledge of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  It found that overall, New Zealanders had a limited knowledge of ASEAN, and felt warmest towards the people from Southeast Asian countries that they were most familiar with - including Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand.
  • For the first time, the survey asked about Asian investment in New Zealand, as a way of tracking public perception.  Most respondents were positive about Asian investment - 74 percent agreed it was good for the New Zealand economy that companies in Asia invested in New Zealand’s businesses, while 13 percent disagreed.
  • About one-fifth (22 percent) of New Zealanders said they considered New Zealand to be a part of Asia.

For more information, contact:
Rebecca Palmer
Media Adviser
Telephone: 64 4 470 8701
Mobile: 027 226 8707

Last updated: 8 Aug 2014