NZ'S FIRST WORLD WAR CENTENARY 2014–2019

New Zealand understanding of WW1 - a benchmark survey

Results from a benchmark survey of the New Zealand public’s knowledge and understanding of the First World War and its attitudes to centenary commemorations.


The WW100 Programme Office, with the Auckland War Memorial Museum and Te Papa, commissioned Colmar Brunton to conduct this New Zealand-wide survey, which includes some questions from similar surveys conducted in Britain and Australia.

The survey results provide a benchmark — the basis for planning activities and a tool that can be used again to evaluate the success of New Zealand's First World War Centenary programme.

Benchmark survey results - Word document (4.07 MB)

Benchmark survey results - PDF document (2.82 MB)

Survey design

The survey questions were designed to gather detailed data specific to age, gender, ethnicity and region. The survey also included open-ended questions that are still being analysed.

The survey had five main areas of enquiry:

  • interest in history and engagement in learning about history
  • relevance of the First World War to New Zealand
  • First World War centenary commemorations
  • personal engagement with the First World War
  • top of mind associations.

Highlights from survey results

Interest in history and engagement in learning about history

A large majority of New Zealanders show a general interest in history and are particularly interested in the history of their local community and their own family. There is also considerable appreciation of the role and relevance of the First World War for today. 

Relevance of the First World War to New Zealand

Most New Zealanders perceive the war to have been relevant in shaping our national identity, and a little over half see it as relevant to their life today. The research findings also reinforce the special place the New Zealand/Australia relationship has had in shaping our history.

First World War Centenary commemorations

This appreciation of the war’s importance to New Zealand translates into a large majority of people surveyed thinking that it is important for New Zealand to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. 

Personal engagement with the First World War

Personal connections are a key motivator for New Zealanders to learn more about the First World War. 

Activities that facilitate a more personal connection (like photographic exhibitions, survival stories and diaries) can be used to lead to a deeper understanding of the overall war. People also want to be able to research their own family connections to the First World War.

Older people are more interested in the First World War and aware of the centenary, but there is a high degree of interest among young people.

Knowledge of the First World War

Most New Zealanders’ understanding of the First World War is limited to a few basic facts, even though a third of respondents believe they have a reasonable knowledge of the war. 

There are clear opportunities to expand knowledge (such as New Zealand’s occupation of Samoa) and, in some instances, to correct knowledge (such as the Western Front battles, not Gallipoli, being the deadliest in New Zealand’s military history).

Gallipoli and top of mind associations

The findings also show that Gallipoli and personal connections to the First World War are most likely to engage New Zealanders. Gallipoli clearly holds a special place in our nation’s history. The research findings show it is prominent in New Zealanders’ top of mind associations with the First World War, is perceived to be the most important front or battle of the First World War, and is the most preferred battle for a recreation of a trench experience.

However, this finding also demonstrates that there are clear opportunities to expand knowledge and understanding. Gallipoli and a personal connection may be the best first 'hook' into the Centenary, but a much wider field of learning is available.

Download Full Survey results

Note that the following report does not include responses to open-ended questions. This data is still being analysed.

Benchmark survey results - Word document (4.07 MB)

Benchmark survey results - PDF document (2.82 MB)

Related Links

Interim survey – New Zealanders and the WW100 commemorations

New Zealand and the First World War timeline

Activities and projects underway for the First World War Centenary commemorations

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