Despite major concerns about the economy and jobs, the vast majority of New Zealanders still want to keep the borders closed until Covid-19 is contained.

That is one of the key findings in a poll, out this week, that also found New Zealanders were less concerned about the economy than their Australian counterparts, but much more worried about housing and poverty issues.

The New Zealand Issues Monitor surveyed 1000 adults in the country over several days this month. The survey was carried out by market research company Ipsos.

The top issues were the economy, followed by housing/cost of housing and unemployment - mirroring results from the previous survey in May.


Healthcare/hospitals, poverty/inequality and inflation/cost of living occupied the fourth, fifth and sixth positions respectively.

Participants were also asked about the country's Covid-19 response.

Currently, 80 per cent supported keeping the border closed until the virus was proven to be contained - up from 75 per cent in March pre-lockdown, but down from 87 per cent during level 4 and 85 per cent at level 3.

There was also more support for opening up to Pacific Island countries than anywhere else.

When asked if keeping the border closed was the correct approach given the risk, 75 per cent agreed for Pacific Island countries, compared to 85 per cent for Australia and 92 per cent for the rest of the world.

A transtasman bubble has been on the cards since May, and tourism operators, business associations and the air travel industry have all been lobbying for it to happen as soon as safely possible - particularly as the ski season gets under way.

This week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said being able to do so safely remained the key factor, citing the recent outbreak in Victoria as putting the brakes on the idea.

With most other Australian states having largely pursued and achieved a form of elimination, the door was open for state connections, but the "ball is in Australia's court" as to how fast that could occur, she said.


University of Otago epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker also said, in terms of the border, New Zealand should first look at Pacific island nations that have always been Covid-free, moving to those that have the eliminated the virus, including Australian states in isolation from each other.

To give New Zealanders the confidence to open the border, the top approach cited in the survey was ensuring full elimination in the country where international visitors were arriving from (24 per cent), followed by two weeks' mandatory quarantine in a government-managed facility (21 per cent).

According to the poll, the Labour-led coalition retained a high rating of 7.3 out of 10, down slightly from May on 7.6, which was the highest rating since winning the 2017 election.

The Labour party was perceived most capable of handling 18 out of the 20 issues facing New Zealanders.

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Environmental pollution, water concerns and climate change were issues where the Green Party was seen as most capable.

Participants were also asked about how comfortable they felt about voting in September's election, which had increased from 60 per cent to 83 per cent as alert levels dropped from 4 to 1.


The economy became the top issue in the May 2020 survey for the first time since Ipsos started running the New Zealand Issues Monitor in early 2018.

This was when New Zealand was under alert level 2, and 47 per cent of respondents ranked it the top issue.

The economy remained the top concern, at 40 per cent, in July, with 45 per cent of people believing Labour the most capable of managing it, followed by National on 30 per cent.

This was also the main issue in Australia. However, a survey there showed there was much more concern, with 48 per cent ranking it the top issue.

Housing and the price of housing had consistently been the top issue since February 2018, but during Covid-19 the economy and unemployment gained in importance.

In the July survey, housing was second on 34 per cent, while unemployment rounded out the top 3, despite a 10-point drop in July to 31 per cent.


Unemployment significantly increased from 8 per cent in March to 41 per cent in May, when New Zealand moved into alert level 2 and more people began to return to the workplace.

Around half (49 per cent) said Labour was the most capable of managing this issue, followed by National (25 per cent).

Unemployment was also comparatively more concerning in Australia, where 41 per cent of respondents ranked it the top issue.

However, housing was over twice as concerning in New Zealand - 34 per cent compared to 16 per cent - and poverty/inequality was also much more concerning, 26 per cent compared to 16 per cent.

Concerns about crime also increased in New Zealand in July to 16 per cent, after a drop in May to 12 per cent, compared to 25 per cent in March.