Determining the top 10 issues & corresponding KPIs

Issues research

There are 3 research companies that regularly poll and publish the issues that matter most to Kiwis:

  • Curia
    Monthly polling sponsored by the Taxpayers’ Union (last issues polling Nov 1-6, released Nov 9)
  • Essential
    Monthly polling supported by The Guardian (last issues polling Nov 9-12, released Nov 15)
  • Ipsos
    Tri-annual New Zealand Issues Monitor (last issues polling over Aug; specific dates not given, so we used a mid-Aug median date, released Sep 18.)

All 3 research companies poll 1,000+ voters, and all are closely aligned on the top 9 issues facing New Zealand, except for Environment, which ranks higher for Curia, and Taxes, which ranks higher for Essential.

To learn more about their methodologies, visit Please note that Curia’s full polling reports are only visible to Taxpayer Caucus supporters.

We are continually updating the issues rankings as new information becomes available. Curia and Essential both released updated issues polling for November on November 9 and 15, respectively. Ipsos' tri-annual reports come out only in September, February, and June.

Given the different release dates, we need to apply a weighting adjustment to give greater weight to the Curia and Essential results, which are more current. To achieve this:

  • The first step is to turn the % scores for each issue for each researcher into a total out of 100% so that they are comparable across all 3 researchers.
  • Next, we discount each data set by 20% for every month old it is. This 20% figure is based on Ipsos' September report also remaining their current one for Oct, Nov, Dec, and Jan = 5 months in total. 100% / 5 months = 20%. As such, we apply 100%, 80%, 60%, 40%, and 20% weightings in those successive months until more current data is released again.
  • For half months, 10% is used, e.g. 50% for IPSOS mid-August data since it is approximately 2.5 months older than Curia and Essential's early November data.

If you believe there is a superior way to apply weightings, would like a custom algorithm output, or believe there are results from other research companies that we should add to our methodology, please let us know via the comments below or contact us!

The final step is that each researcher has a different list of issue options to rate or rank, and we need to omit duplications and generic catch-all options from consideration. There are also some issues which don't make the top 10. These are:

  • Curia
    • "Policies" - policies came in 3rd in their November polling, but is a generic term that covers all issue areas, e.g. economy, health, crime, housing, poverty, environment, education, and more, so we can't list this as a specific issue. There is also no corresponding KPI for such a generic catch-all concept. We can gain insight from this, however, that many New Zealanders are concerned with the current policies coming out of Parliament, and especially the Government of the day.
  • Essential
    • "Protecting at risk and vulnerable children" - this came in at #6 in their November polling, but is also a generic statement that covers many issue areas that are measured elsewhere, especially poverty, inflation, housing, crime, health, and education. It is important to note that a similar statement also ranks highly in Kantar's issue polling, so we can infer that many New Zealanders feel strongly about all children getting a good/fair/safe start/childhood.
    • "Mental health" - 8th, but is a subset of Health, so it hasn't been listed separately. It is also not tested by Ipsos and doesn't feature on Curia's top 10 lists, so it's likely that Curia don't test it either. We have asked.
    • "Cleaning up rivers and lakes" - 12th. A subset of Environment, so it hasn't been listed separately. Also, the 2nd to last issue.
    • "Reducing traffic congestion" - 13th. The last issue, so doesn't make the top 10 cut. Also #11 for Ipsos, and doesn't make Curia's top 10 list either.
  • Ipsos
    • "Petrol prices / fuel" - 7th in their August polling. Since this is a Cost of Living measure within the Consumer Price Index (CPI), we have not shown it separately. It is also not measured by Essential, and doesn't feature in Curia's top 10 list.
    • "Transport / public transport / infrastructure" - 11th.
    • "Race relations / racism" - 12th. We have, though, measured the much broader concept of Social Unity which goes beyond race alone and also covers unity/division between other demographics in society such as city vs rural, landlords vs tenants, employers vs employees, private vs public sector, young vs old, male vs female, and more.
    • "Household debt / personal debt" - 13th. This is also largely covered by the Cost of Living and Housing KPIs which contribute largely to those debt levels.
    • "Drug / alcohol abuse" - 14th. Also, a subset of Health.
    • Environment pollution / water concerns" - 15th. Also, a subset of Environment.
    • "Unemployment" - 16th. There are significant concerns over how accurate the official unemployment rate is, so this might rank highly with a more accurate measure.
    • "Issues facing Māori" - 17th.
    • "Population / overpopulation" - 18th. It's important to note that sudden changes in our population can significantly impact other KPIs, especially Housing, Health, and Education infrastructure, and Environmental impact.
    • "Immigration" - 19th. Also, see the point above.
    • "Defence / foreign affairs / terrorism" = 20th.

All of the above have been omitted from consideration for the top 10 issues list on Their ranking position has also been omitted from the rankings given below for the same reason.

As of November 15, 2023, (after Curia and Essential's latest releases) the top 9 issues in New Zealand, as ranked by New Zealanders are:

  1. Cost of Living/inflation
    19.6% weighted score and easily the #1 issue in all 3 polls, plus also #1 in Kantar research. We haven't included Kantar's full research for the reasons listed on

  2. Economy (up 1 from Oct)
    11.2% weighted score. #2 for Curia (up 1), #2 for Essential (no change = NC) and #5 for Ipsos. NOTE: 'Economy'/'Managing the economy' is asked/tested as a more generic economic management score beyond the Cost of Living and Housing, which are listed as their own issues.

  3. Health/hospitals/healthcare/health services (down 1 from Oct)
    8.0% weighted score. Now #5 for Curia (down 3), #3 for Essential (NC) and #4 for Ipsos. Sadly, health KPIs are the weakest of all areas in our society, which we attempt to explain as simply as possible on the Health page.

  4. Crime/crime rate/law & order
    7.0% weighted score. Now #7 for Curia (down 3), #5 for Essential (NC) and #2 for Ipsos.

  5. Housing/housing crisis/price of housing
    6.8% weighted score. #6 for Curia (up 1), #6 for Essential (down 1) and #3 for Ipsos. FYI, rent costs and the price to build a new house are also included in the CPI (Consumer Price Index) under Cost of Living, but deposit sizes, land prices, house price appreciation, and mortgage interest are not included in the CPI.

  6. Poverty/inequality/gap between rich and poor (up 1 from Oct)
    5.8% weighted score. #4 for Curia (up 2), #8 for Essential (NC), and #7 for Ipsos.

  7. Environment/climate change (down 1 from Oct)
    5.6% weighted score. #3 for Curia (up 2), #9 for Essential (NC), and #6 for Ipsos.

  8. Taxes/taxation/fair tax system
    4.7% weighted score. #8 for Curia (NC), #4 for Essential (NC) and #9 for Ipsos).

  9. Education
    4.3% weighted score. #9 for Curia (NC), #7 for Essential (down 1), and #8 for Ipsos.

  10. Social Unity/division
    This is not measured by IPSOS or Essential in their issues lists of 20 and 12 options, respectively, and we’re not sure about Curia since they only show the top 10 answers. However, anecdotal evidence and the research we do have suggests social unity/division/cohesion is a significant issue at the moment. 3 different questions from 3 different pollsters (Essential, 1News Verian, and NZ Herald Dynata) have all shown that ⅔ to ¾ of New Zealanders feel we’ve become more divided, and ~½ believe race relations are getting worse too, versus just 14% who believe race relations are getting better. For this reason, we have included it in our top 10 issues, but in 10th spot. We have encouraged all research companies to include this question in their future issues lists so that we can get a more accurate read on how it sits against other issues. Unfortunately, the last research company to research this issue was Essential back in September.

  11. OVERALL Country Direction/Government confidence
    This a generic and final catch-all measure of how the country feels across all areas of life and society. 3 research companies poll and publish this data each month (Roy Morgan, Curia, and Essential), and all are very closely aligned in their scores, which gives us confidence in the confidence score.

The total for the top 9 issues above is 73%, meaning ~27% of the weighting belongs to other issues not shown in this top 9, e.g. transport, jobs, population, immigration, defence/foreign affairs, and more.

% weighting adjustments are a little complex, difficult to explain in words, and tables don’t look great on websites, especially mobile phones, so please contact us if you’d like to see this analysis.

KPIs (Key/Kiwi Performance Indicators)

Once the issues are agreed upon, we then need to agree on the best KPI(s) to measure them. For the launch version of this website, we have focused on the top KPI available for each issue, but as we get more support, and as government organistions publish new data sets, we will add multiple KPIs for each area.

Please see each KPI detail page to learn more about why that KPI was chosen over other options at this point in time, and please add your comments to those pages if you believe there is a superior KPI available.

  1. Cost of living
  2. Economy
  3. Health
  4. Crime
  5. Housing
  6. Poverty
  7. Environment
  8. Taxes
  9. Education
  10. Social Unity
  11. Overall Country Direction

Why 10 issues/KPIs?

  1. There were a distinct top 10 issues before a drop-down to transport/traffic in the 11th spot.
  2. Top 10 lists are very common and help to create awareness and engagement with data.
  3. 10 + an overall metric + an email sign-up form also just so happened to fit well into our 3-column layout.

Other issues/KPIs considered

  • Issue rankings over time
    No one seems to have measured issue importance over time, only issue rankings over time. By asking only for a ranking, Curia and Ipsos can’t measure if that issue is becoming more or less important overall, only that it is becoming more or less important relative to other issues. In other words, many or all issues might be getting more or less concerning for citizens, but ranked lists can't show this insight. Essential does measure an importance score, which it then uses to also determine a ranking, but only has 2 months of data at the time of writing.

  • Government spending
    This is a generic issue across all others, so is not tested or listed as a top 9 issue. Perhaps it should be, though, and we have asked the research companies if they will include this in the future. In our wishlist, we plan to add Government spending as either an overlay on all graphs, or we’ll list this as its own KPI within Economy, or both. You can see Core Crown Expenses by Class 1972-2022 on theFacts.

  • Population
    Population growth places pressure on many infrastructure areas, e.g. schooling, hospitals, houses, and environmental damage, but is not listed as a top 9 issue at the moment. Ipsos does have it as an option, but it's way down in 18th spot. As part of our wishlist, we will add this somewhere appropriate at a future date. You can see Population Growth 1952-2021 (split by net migration and net births) on theFacts.

  • Happiness
    This is a general measure, not an issue area as such, not currently tested in the issues research, and difficult to find robust data for. However, country direction and social unity/division both reflect the mood of the nation.

Our cousin website,, has covered over 100 metrics over 2 years, so it is better suited for displaying many of these other measures of interest to society. is focused on the top issues and KPIs only.

Data sources

Once the issues and KPIs are decided, we then go to find the data via:

  • Desktop research
  • Asking thought leaders for help
  • Asking government organisations for help
  • Submitting OIA requests if the data is not publicly available

Red vs Blue lines

  • The governance of New Zealand is led by the government of New Zealand at the time, hence the similarity in the terms.
    • Oxford definition: government - the group of people who are responsible for controlling a country or a state.
  • The responsibility for the performance of our country ultimately lies at the top with the Prime Minister and then the ministers of key portfolios:
    • In some areas, the government is solely responsible, e.g. tax rates and policing.
    • In areas of society that are mostly state-funded, they are primarily responsible and also set the rules for private providers, e.g. health and education.
    • Economic aspects are trickier to control with foreign influences and fewer levers to pull, but the governments of the day still carry significant influence, e.g. inflation and GDP per capita.
    • Some areas are led primarily by the private sector but with the rules set by the government and the economic conditions influenced by them as well, e.g. housing.
    • In nature, the government sets the rules for the environment.
    • The way the government leads its people largely influences our social cohesion or division.
    • And then there are some key performance indicators that are the outputs of many of the other metrics above, e.g. poverty and country direction scores.
  • There are external events that can have an impact for a period of time on a key issue area and the corresponding key performance indicators, e.g. the GFC (Global Financial Crisis), earthquakes, floods, Covid, and context is important to consider, but that does not absolve any government of responsibility for those areas over each parliamentary term.
  • Given this great governance responsibility, we have used colours to represent the lead/largest party in each 3-term government. There have only been 2 lead parties in the last 88 years:
    • Labour, which we’ve shown in their red party colour.
    • National, which we’ve shown in their blue party colour.
  • There were no coalition governments between 1936 and 1994. Only Labour or National under our old FPP (First Past the Post) electoral system.
  • In the last 3 decades, however, especially since the arrival of the MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) system in 1996, there have mostly been coalition governments in some format. Even our first majority government under MMP, the 2020-2023 Labour-led Government, still has a cooperation agreement with the Green Party and the Greens have ministers outside of cabinet.
  • For, we’ve decided to launch with red and blue lines only, but have explained the support parties in the text you see below and also on each of the 11 KPI detail pages.
  • In the future, we’ll look at other creative ways to visually represent the coalitions on the graphs so that each governing party shares in the success and failure of their performance metrics.
  • For election dates, see
  • For all governments, see
  • For a more detailed breakdown of the structure of MMP governments, see Table 5 on
  • If a data point falls between an election date and the date the new government is formed, we have shared that result between both Labour and National-led governments. We considered showing a purple transition period for these data points, but many voters want to see an incoming government take ownership as soon as it gets the keys. (Most) citizens also give new governments a fair grace period to start to turn underperforming metrics around.

1984 = Labour
= Labour

1990 = National
1993 = National*
1996 = National/NZ First*

1999 = Labour/Alliance + Green
2002 = Labour/Progressive + United
2005 = Labour/Progressive + United, NZ First

2008 = National + ACT, United, Māori
2011 = National + ACT, United, Māori
2014 = National + ACT, United, Māori

2017 = Labour/NZ First + Green
2020 = Labour + Green

Supporting content

For transparency, every KPI detail page lists:

  • Key notes
  • Data source(s)
  • Data availability
  • Frequency of release
  • Release dates
  • An explanation of why that KPI was chosen
  • Discarded metrics
  • Related facts
  • Wishlist
  • Governments during the periods shown
  • Credits to the organisations that suppliedthe data

As resource allows, we will add more KPIs and other facts as well, especially from which has now amassed over 100 facts in the last 2 years.

Peer review

  • We are very aware that we are sometimes dealing with complex and dynamic data, are making some important decisions about what we show and what we don’t. We also know that humans make mistakes, so we are always open to constructive criticism on how to make better for our country.
  • If you can help review and improve our work, we’d love to hear from you.
  • If you spot a typo, mistake, or improvement opportunity for this page, please let us know via the comments below or contact us!

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