While 51% of New Zealanders believe the red traffic light setting has the right balance between restriction and freedom, a quarter (26%) believe restrictions are too tight and a further quarter would like stricter restrictions (24%). Those who believe we should have firmer restrictions talk about wanting lockdowns, wider use of masks and closure of borders. Those who think restrictions are too tight mention wanting borders to open, a full return to normal, removal of masks in schools, hospitality limits and vaccine mandates.
Early 2020, Ipsos New Zealand started tracking New Zealanders’ views on COVID-19. In this wave, (run 4-11th February 2022) the Ipsos Mind and Mood of New Zealanders: The Arrival of Omicron asked 1,004 New Zealanders how they are feeling about the virus now the Omicron variant is transmitting in the community, including how well New Zealand is managing the outbreak.
Key findings include:
- There are high levels of concern around what Omicron will bring over the next month, with only 15% of New Zealanders claiming they are not concerned at all.
- New Zealanders believe that they are likely to catch COVID-19 either themselves (35%) or their close friends / family (46%) has almost doubled since this time last year (17% and 26% respectively in February 2021).
- While there are increased feelings of impatience around getting back to normal life (26% feel this way compared to 17% in February 2021), there is also increased concern for those who are weak or vulnerable (27% compared to 22% in February 2021).
- Just half of all New Zealanders believe the red traffic light restrictions have the right balance between restrictions and freedom. The other half are split in their views, with a quarter who would like to see restrictions tightened and a further quarter loosened.
- Those who would like tighter restrictions would like greater use of lockdowns, masks, border closures, and online learning for schools.
- Those who would like looser restrictions would like to see the removal of border restrictions, masks in schools, hospitality limits and vaccine mandates. They are keen to see a full return to normal with no restrictions.
- People living in Canterbury are more likely to believe the red traffic light restrictions are too restrictive, while Aucklanders are less likely to agree (33% compared to 22%).
- Nearly two-thirds of New Zealanders would like to see restrictions on how businesses operate removed.
- Ratings of Government performance in managing the virus has dropped to 63% positive after consistently being in the 80s and 90s over the last 2 years.
- The majority of New Zealanders would not feel comfortable leaving their house without a mask now – significantly more than during previous COVID waves.
- New Zealanders are less likely to believe COVID-19 is a threat to the world compared to a year ago (63% vs. 78%) but are more likely to believe it is a threat to our country (46% vs. 32%).
Talking about the findings, Carin Hercock, Managing Director, Ipsos New Zealand, said: “At Ipsos we believe it is important to understand how New Zealanders are feeling as the COVID threats evolve. In our latest Mind and Mood of New Zealanders we’re seeing a distinct shift in views. New Zealanders are more worried than ever about the risk to their whānau and themselves. We realise our chances of catching this variant are much higher than previous ones and so we’re much more likely to protect ourselves by wearing masks than ever before. On top of this, there is increased concern about our vulnerable populations and while in contrast a quarter of New Zealanders think restrictions should be loosened only 12% are feeling angry about those restrictions”
Amanda Dudding, Research Director, Public Affairs, Ipsos New Zealand,added: “New Zealanders’ pride in our team of 5 million working together to manage COVID-19 is showing real signs of cracking, particularly with the drop in the rating of our Government’s management and containment of the virus. While the continuing freedom protests indicate a growing level of discontent, this survey shows that there might be a quarter of New Zealanders would like to see restrictions reduced, but for many of these it relates to the restrictions at the border, and there are just 12% who are feeling angry about restrictions.”