We surveyed 1000 New Zealanders one month after the Christchurch mosque shootings on 15 March 2019. The survey asked respondents how trusting they felt people belonging to different faiths in New Zealand.
The question was posed to Catholics and Protestants, Evangelical Christians Christians, Muslims, Hindus Buddhists, atheists or agnostics as well as Jews. Because we didn’t want to identify New Zealanders’ faith in global Catholicism or Islam, we emphasized living in New Zealand.
We don’t know of any prior trust considerations in New Zealand for different religious groups.
Buddhists Are Most Trusted, Evangelicals Less
For responses, we used a 5-point scale: complete trust, trust with lots of trust, trust with some trust, trust with little trust, trust with a lot of trust and trust completely. Ordinal data (e.g. We converted ordinal data (e.g.
The most trusted religious group in New Zealand was a small, non-Christian group called Buddhists. Out of the 3.9 million respondents to the religious question, 58,000 Buddhists were recorded in the 2013 Census. Positive attitudes are more common than negative. 35% of New Zealanders feel positive about Buddhists. 15% of them have very little or no trust.
A minority Christian group is the least trusted in New Zealand: Evangelicals (135,000 in the 2013 Census). Evangelicals are less trusted than others – 21% have complete trust and lots of trust, while 38% don’t have any trust at all.
Least Trusted Religious Zealanders
The difference in trust among the most and least trusted religious groups, measured as the average trust score, is a size statisticians call medium.
All other religious groups are located between these top and bottom groups. They are statistically and meaningfully indistinguishable.
The largest religious group in New Zealand is the Protestants. This includes about 900,000. Anglicans. Presbyterians. Methodists. According to our survey, 29% of New Zealanders trust Protestants completely or a lot. 24% don’t trust at all.
This compares with 27% and 23% for Muslims (46,0000), 29%, and 20% for Hindus (89,000), and 30% and 17% respectively for Jews (7000).
The trust data does not show any evidence of anti-Semitism in local areas or Islamophobia towards Jews or Muslims. This is in contrast to the mainstream Christian denominations. There is evidence of moderate social prejudice toward non-mainstream Evangelical Christians with almost four out ten people distrusting them.
Trust In-Group And Out-Group Zealanders
Our measure can be used to proxy for out-group trust (the trust level in a group of people other than that group) for smaller religious groups such as Hindus or Jews in New Zealand. Because there are very few people in the minority group, it is also likely that our sample has very few. This proxy is excellent. Because religion is a sensitive topic in New Zealand, we didn’t want to suppress responses.
Our measure won’t detect out-group trust in larger groups such as Catholics and Protestants (the latter 500,000 people according to the 2013 Census). This is because the survey will likely contain significant numbers of people from these larger religious groups. Therefore, a large amount of measured trust in larger religious communities is actually in group trust, which is trust by members of the same religious group.
It is possible that out-group trust may be higher than in-group religious trust. This means that people trust those who are closer to them in religion than those who don’t. This positive in-group bias can be important. However, an accurate measure of out-group religious faith will decrease trust in larger Christian communities relative to trusting smaller minority groups.