How do Kiwis really feel about Asian people? Results from a sprawling study show warmth toward Asians has been growing.
Auckland University researcher Nicole Satherley drew on results from the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS), a major research effort that has tracked the views of thousands of Kiwis since it was launched six years ago.
Since then, around 5000 New Zealand-born residents have been asked each year, among hundreds of other questions, to rate their warmth towards Asian people on a scale of one to seven. In 2009, the average score was 4.3, but by last year, this had risen to 4.5.
"Up until the end of 2010, the level of warmth was relatively stable, but from that point we saw a general increase," Ms Satherley said.
While that rise might be seen as a small leap, it was a significant change statistically.
"That doesn't surprise us at all, because when you look at changes in attitudes and values, change tends to happen slowly," she said.
"If we were telling you, for example, that we'd seen a five-point change, we'd be incredibly suspicious of our data.
"So while we are only looking at a small part of the time frame, we've only got a five-year window - but it's consistently improving."
What was driving the change remained unclear as Ms Satherley hadn't yet tested variables predicting the change.
Dr Chris Sibley, who jointly leads the New Zealand Values and Attitudes Study, said although the latest data had not yet been published, it was important for New Zealanders to know now what Kiwis really thought about Asians.
"We think we can do that better than anyone else at the moment - and what's been happening is that warmth has been systematically increasing, which is a good thing, I think, for people to know and recognise."
Dr Sibley felt it could be speculated the warming was partly because Kiwis were having more everyday interaction with Asian people as the ethnicity became more a part of New Zealand's social fabric, while less competition for jobs in the post-recession economy might have also contributed.
The latest annual Asia New Zealand Foundation perceptions survey, published in May, showed a large increase in people who said they had "a lot" or "a fair amount" to do with Asian peoples and cultures.
It put a general "warming" down to factors such as greater interaction, public cultural celebrations and media reports.
Less positive, however, were the views about economic benefits with Asian people buying houses in New Zealand and Asian companies investing in local assets.
More agreed that Asians were responsible for rising property prices, up from 33 to 39 per cent - a view held by 54 per cent in Auckland.