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New Zealand General Social Survey: 2014
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  26 May 2015
Data quality

Period-specific information
This section contains information that has changed since the last release in 2012.

General information
This section contains information about the data that does not change between releases.

Period specific information

Reference period

The data collection for the New Zealand General Social Survey (NZGSS) 2014 took place over the 12 months from April 2014 to March 2015.

Response rate and sample size

The target response rate for the survey was 80 percent. The achieved response rate for 2014 was 80.3 percent. We calculated the response rate by dividing the weighted percentage of eligible individuals who responded by the estimated number of eligible individuals.

The NZGSS 2014 personal questionnaire was answered by 8,795 individuals. Households were selected at random using a multistage sample design.

Changes to survey since 2012

Overall life satisfaction measure redeveloped

Overall life satisfaction is a self-reported measure that is one aspect of people’s self-rated well-being. We used it for the 2008, 2010, and 2012 New Zealand General Social Surveys (NZGSS), but changed it for the 2014 NZGSS.

In 2012, we asked people how they felt about life as a whole at the time they were interviewed. Respondents chose from five options on a Likert response scale:

  • very satisfied 
  • satisfied 
  • neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 
  • dissatisfied 
  • very dissatisfied.

In 2014, we changed this and asked respondents how they felt about their lives overall on a scale of 0–10 (completely dissatisfied to completely satisfied).

We are starting a new time series with 2014 data, which means that 2014 data can’t be used for NZGSS time series that use earlier data.

New ‘sense of purpose’ measure

Sense of purpose is the second self-reported measure we used to look at people’s self-rated well-being. It tells us whether people felt they had a sense of purpose or meaning in life.

We asked respondents if they felt that the things they did in life were worthwhile, using a 0–10 scale, as we used for the overall life satisfaction measure.

For sense of purpose, people who reported 0 felt their lives were not at all worthwhile and those who reported 10 felt their lives were completely worthwhile.

Changes to survey domains

Safety and security

In 2014, we deleted this content from the safety and security domain:

  • How safe do you feel at work? 
  • How safe do you feel walking alone during the day in your neighbourhood? 
  • How safe do you feel waiting for or using public transport such as buses and trains during the day? 
  • crime questions (except for crimes committed against the respondent, which was kept) 
  • safety-at-work questions 
  • road-user safety questions.

We introduced this content into the domain: 

  • How safe do you feel at home by yourself at night? 
  • How safe do you feel using the Internet for online transactions? 
  • anti-social behaviour in neighbourhood questions (also includes questions about ‘major problems with house’).
Material standard of living

We deleted the economic living standard index content from the material standard of living domain.

We introduced the material wellbeing index into this domain.

Paid work

We deleted this content from the paid work domain: 

  • hours / pay balance question 
  • hours balance question.

We deleted this content from the housing domain: 

  • overall satisfaction with housing 
  • major problems with house 
  • major problems with street / neighbourhood (we incorporated some of this content into a new question, ‘anti-social behaviour in neighbourhood’).

We introduced this content into the housing domain: 

  • condition of house 
  • whether mould is a problem
  • whether coldness is a problem.

Knowledge and skills: We’ve deleted this domain entirely but we still ask people about their highest qualification in the demographic section of the survey.

Leisure and recreation: We’ve deleted this domain.

Physical environment: We’ve deleted this domain but still ask three questions about emergency preparedness.

Emergency preparedness: We’ve reduced this module from 13 to three questions.

Sense of belonging to New Zealand: We’ve deleted this domain.

Social connectedness: We extended this domain and used it as the content for the 2014 rotating survey supplement, outlined below.

Rotating survey supplement

In 2014, the NZGSS collected information from a supplement that will change with each subsequent survey.

We choose the supplement’s topic from the survey’s main content, and expanded it to give more detail about the topic. That topic is returned to the main content for the next survey, and we expand a different topic for the supplement.

In 2014, the rotating survey supplement was about social networks and support.

Social networks and support

Social networks are important parts of people’s lives. They provide support and help in times of need; they help us achieve things we might not be able to do on our own; and they improve our well-being by reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness.

We collected information about three aspects of social networks and support:

  • characteristics of social networks – tell us about the make-up of people’s familial and wider social networks 
  • strength of social networks – tells us if people think they would be able to access support, if they needed it, across different scenarios 
  • effectiveness of social networks – tells us if people could get support from their networks when they experienced an actual time of need.

General information

Survey population

The survey population for the NZGSS is the usually resident New Zealand population aged 15 years and over, in private dwellings in the North Island, South Island, or Waiheke Island.

The survey population includes:

  • New Zealand usual residents temporarily overseas
  • New Zealand usual residents temporarily staying elsewhere in New Zealand (including other permanent and temporary private dwellings, institutions, and non-private dwellings; and people who have no fixed abode, but are found in private dwellings on the household enumeration date)
  • people in the New Zealand armed forces if they reside in a private dwelling
  • young adults at boarding schools.

The survey population excludes:

  • overseas visitors and international students who expect to be resident in New Zealand for less than 12 months 
  • people living in non-private dwellings such as hotels, motels, boarding houses, hostels, and homes for the elderly
  • patients in hospitals, or residents of psychiatric and penal institutions 
  • people living on offshore islands (excluding Waiheke Island) 
  • members of the non-New Zealand armed forces and their dependants 
  • non-New Zealand diplomats or diplomatic staff members and their dependants 
  • New Zealand usual residents temporarily overseas who do not return within the survey period 
  • New Zealand usual residents temporarily staying elsewhere in New Zealand (including other permanent and temporary private dwellings, institutions, and non-private dwellings; and people who have no fixed abode, but stay at private dwellings) who don't return within the survey period 
  • New Zealand usual residents who live in remote areas that are costly or difficult to access.

Survey content

We use household and personal questionnaires to collect the data. One individual in the household completes the household questionnaire, which collects information about all the usually resident people in that household (eg family relationships and household income). We randomly select one individual in the household aged 15 years or over to answer the personal questionnaire.

We use computer-assisted personal interviews, which last an average of 45 minutes.

Reliability of survey estimates

Two types of error are possible in estimates based on a sample survey: sampling error and non-sampling error. Sampling error can be measured and quantifies the variability that occurs by chance because a sample rather than an entire population is surveyed. Non-sampling errors are all errors that are not sampling errors. These errors are not quantifiable and include unintentional mistakes by respondents, variation in the respondent's and interviewer's interpretation of the questions asked, and errors in recording and coding data. We endeavour to minimise the impact of these errors by applying best survey practices and monitoring known indicators (ie non-response).

We estimate sampling errors using a jack-knife method, which is based on the variation between estimates and on taking 100 mutually exclusive subsamples from the whole sample. Sampling errors are quoted at the 95 percent confidence level. For example, if the estimated total number of people is 1,575,200, and the estimate is subject to a sampling error of plus or minus 35,500, or 2.3 percent (measured at the 95 percent confidence level), that shows there is a 95 percent chance the true total number of people lies between 1,539,700 and 1,610,700.

Smaller estimates, such as the total number of Pacific people (191,000), are subject to larger sampling errors than larger estimates. This estimate has a sampling error of plus or minus 21,300, or 11.2 percent (measured at the 95 percent confidence level).

High-level checks of the ethnic groups indicate the samples are broadly representative of the population. However, conclusions about groups with small population size, such as Pacific people, can be vulnerable to unmeasured differences between the survey participants and the population.

Our customers should view an output with a relative sampling error of 30 percent to 49.9 percent with caution (flagged in tables by an asterisk*). An error of 50 percent or more should be considered unreliable (flagged by **).

Confidentiality and suppression

Tables with very few contributors are suppressed (‘S’). These cells have an estimated population of less than 1,000 and we deem them to be unreliable and a risk to respondents’ confidentiality.

Rounding and percentages

We calculate all percentages used in the text from weighted data, which is rounded to two significant figures. The percentages in the tables are rounded to one decimal place. To improve the readability of the data, our calculation of percentages excludes residual categories (eg ‘don't know’ and ‘refused’) in the population base from which we calculate percentages.

Accuracy of the data

Sample design information

The NZGSS uses a three-stage sample selection method, similar to our other household surveys.

For the first stage, we select a total of 1,200 primary sampling units (PSUs) from the Household Survey Frame (HSF). The HSF is the standard sampling frame we use to select samples and to manage overlap control for all our household surveys. The HSF lists PSUs with attributes determined by data from the census. We then assign PSUs to standard strata based on these attributes.

The second stage of sample selection consists of selecting eligible dwellings within the selected PSUs. In the third stage, we select one eligible individual within each selected dwelling. The eligible individual is chosen at random from all eligible individuals in the dwelling.

The NZGSS is designed to provide estimates at a national level.


The survey has two sets of weights attached, one for the household and one for the person. We use the household weight to describe the attributes of a household; for example, how many households have dependent children who live outside that household. We use the person weight to describe the attributes of a person; for example, how many people are ‘very satisfied’ with their life overall.

More information

See New Zealand General Social Survey for more information.

Statistics in this release have been produced in accordance with the Official Statistics System principles and protocols for producers of Tier 1 statistics for quality. They conform to the Statistics NZ Methodological Standard for Reporting of Data Quality.


While all care and diligence has been used in processing, analysing, and extracting data and information in this publication, Statistics NZ gives no warranty it is error-free and will not be liable for any loss or damage suffered by the use directly, or indirectly, of the information in this publication.


Our information releases are delivered electronically by third parties. Delivery may be delayed by circumstances outside our control. Statistics NZ does not accept responsibility for any such delay.

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