Data Collection

NZGSS16 Data Collection

NZGSS16 Data Collection en-NZ



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.

The General Social Survey (GSS) provides information on the well-being of New Zealanders aged 15 years and over. It covers a wide range of social and economic outcomes and shows how people are faring. In particular, the survey provides a view of how well-being outcomes are distributed across different groups within the New Zealand population. We release the information in Well-being Statistics: 2016.

Topics in the GSS

New topics added to the GSS in 2015/16 were:

• language

• family well-being

• disability.

The GSS has a rotating survey supplement. The supplement topics for 2016 were:

social identity •acceptance of diversity, social inclusion, and shared identities

civic participation

•political participation




cultural participation

•associated membership

•cultural participation.

Changes to survey content


Acceptance of diversity

We modified the questions on acceptance of diversity in 2015/16. In 2014 we asked if people were accepting of specific groups, including how comfortable they would feel about having a new neighbour from different minority groups. The groups we asked about included: religious minorities, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender, and new migrants. New Zealand is a culturally diverse nation and we thought these questions required improvement to reflect this. Respondents asked these questions may, for example, identify with a listed sexual orientation, and therefore be accepting of this. The question aimed to see if people were accepting of diversity (i.e. people who differed from themselves). The 2016 questions ask how comfortable the respondent would if a new neighbour was a different religion, sexual orientation, or ethnic group. The question on new migrants was replaced by two questions on how comfortable the respondent would be with: a new neighbour that spoke a different language, and a new neighbour that had a disability or long-term health condition.

Social contact

There are fewer questions on contact with family and friends. We moved the questions on social contact from the supplementary content to the primary content. The 2014 GSS had three modules on social content: characteristics of social networks, strength of social networks, and effectiveness of social networks. The 2016 survey aligns the questions more with the 2001, 2010, and 2012 GSS questions. The social contact questions cover contact with family and friends. We ask about different types of contact in the last four weeks, the frequency of those types of contact, and satisfaction with the amount of contact. There is still a question on loneliness.

The 2014 survey had two questions about help around the house and help in a time of crisis. We replaced these two questions with three others: one about financial help, one about emotional help, and one about practical help. This change allows us to look at the different types of help that people might or might not be able to access.
In 2014, we included content on club membership in characteristics of social networks. This is now covered in the associational membership topic. Volunteering is also covered in more depth as a stand-alone topic.

Cultural identity

The cultural identity topic has an additional question on what people consider is part of their cultural identity. Response options include: age, sex, race or ethnic group, and disability or health issues. We ask about how easy it is for people to ‘be themselves’ in New Zealand. We ask them whether this answer relates to personal characteristics, including their age, skin colour, way of dress or appearance, race or ethnic group, and accent or language spoken.

##New and supplementary content .

New topics



The language topic covers which languages people first learnt to speak and are still able to speak. It also contains questions on attitudes towards te reo Māori. (Cabinet has mandated that attitudes to Māori language be measured and monitored.) As well as questions addressing people’s attitudes to te reo Māori, we are also collecting people’s ability to speak te reo and their behaviours (whether they accessed online learning tools or have spoken any Māori recently). Family well-being The family well-being topic was included in Te Kupenga (Māori well-being survey) after the 2013 Census. In this topic we ask people how they think their family is doing these days, how many people they include in their family group, and who they include.


The disability topic uses the Washington Group Short Set (WGSS) of questions to create an indicator for disability status. A survey respondent is required to indicate ‘a lot of difficulty’ or ‘can’t do it all’ for at least one of the six WGSS questions to be counted as disabled. These domains are seeing, hearing, walking, cognition, self-care, and communication. Improving New Zealand disability data has more information.

Supplementary topics


Social identity

The social identity topic asks about people’s sense of belonging. Everyone is asked if they feel they belong to their neighbourhood, region, and New Zealand as a whole. Then we ask people about their sense of belonging to specific groups they are part of: including belonging to the company they work for, their religion or spiritual group, their family, or their marae. We also ask how important certain things are in defining New Zealand – such as freedom, rights, and peace; sports and sporting achievements; natural scenery and environment.

Civic participation Political participation asks about the extent of interest and understanding the respondent has about politics, and how much influence they think the public has in government decision-making. We also ask if respondents have participated in any political activities, such as contacting a member of parliament, signing a petition, or attending a local council meeting. The voting topic is rotating content. No general election or national referendum was held during the 2015/16 survey period. The questions on voting reference the general election in September 2014. Survey participants may or may not have had local body elections. The voting topic asks if participants were enrolled to vote, if they voted, and if they didn’t – the reasons why they didn’t vote. The volunteering topic expands on the data the survey has collected previously. Volunteering was a topic in the 2008 GSS. The topic covers the types of organisations and cultural groups people volunteered for, and if they’ve done voluntary work for other people. It also covers how much time is spent volunteering and if there are any barriers to volunteering. The donations topic asks if people have donated money or goods to a cause or organisation. The volunteering and donations topic ask about similar types of organisations.

Cultural participation Cultural participation covers which types of cultural activities people do and how frequently they do them. These activities include being involved in sports and exercise, performing arts and crafts, and attending events such as musical performances, theatres, and movies.

Reliability of survey estimates

Data with high sampling errors should be used with caution. Estimates with high relative sampling errors (RSEs) between 50 and 100 percent are considered unreliable for most uses, and are flagged with double asterisks (""). Estimates with RSEs over 100 are also provided and are flagged with triple asterisks (*). They are deemed to not be useful. Relative sampling errors / confidence intervals are available as a file that is separate from the tables. 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 error

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 (i.e. non-response).

Sampling error

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. High-level checks of the ethnic groups indicate the samples are broadly representative of the population. However, as the size of the sampled group decreases, the relative sampling errors (RSEs – sample error as a percentage of the estimate) will generally increase. For example, estimates for Pacific peoples would have a larger RSE than those for New Zealand European.

Temporal coverage – Kaikōura earthquakes affect interviewing

Due to the Kaikōura earthquakes in November 2016, Stats NZ could not carry out interviewing for the GSS in December 2016. Those cases allocated for December 2016 were interviewed in April 2017. The survey period for the survey is therefore April to November 2016, then January to April 2017.

Response rate and sample population

The target response rate for the 2015/16 New Zealand General Social Survey (GSS) was 80 percent. The weighted response rate for 2016 was 84.3 percent. We calculated the response rate by dividing the weighted percentage of eligible individuals who responded by the estimated number of eligible individuals. Households were selected at random using a multistage sample design.

The sample size was approximately 12,000 households.


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.

Sample design information

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

Survey population

The survey population for the GSS 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, and 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; homes for the elderly, patients in hospitals, or residents of psychiatric and penal institutions; and people living on offshore islands (excluding Waiheke Island)

  • members of the non-New Zealand armed forces and their dependants; and 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.

Suppressed estimates

Data in the GSS 2016 release are suppressed if based on fewer than five people or households. The previous iterations of the survey (GSS 2008–14) suppressed data if it had a relative sampling error of 51 percent or higher. Survey data is no longer suppressed if a relative sample error is 51 percent or higher.

Estimates with RSEs between 50 and 100 percent are considered unreliable for most uses, and estimates with RSEs over 100 are deemed to not be useful.

See the Reliability of survey estimates section above for more information.

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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###Customised data The tables in the GSS 2016 release do not contain all possible analyses of GSS data. Data requests can be customised to customers' specifications. Contact for more information.


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