NZ'S FIRST WORLD WAR CENTENARY 2014–2019

Interim survey – New Zealanders and the WW100 Commemorations

Results from an interim survey of the New Zealand public’s knowledge and understanding of the First World War and their experiences of the WW100 commemorations to date.


In 2012, the WW100 Programme Office in conjunction with Te Papa and the Auckland War Memorial Museum, commissioned Colmar Brunton to carry out an online survey of New Zealanders aged 15 years or over to benchmark New Zealanders’ knowledge, understanding and beliefs about the First World War, and to determine their attitudes towards and interest in potential commemorative activities.  The report from this benchmark survey can be found here

In March 2016 the WW100 Programme Office asked Colmar Brunton to carry out an interim follow-up survey, building on the 2012 report, to assess the extent to which New Zealanders’ knowledge and understanding of the First World War has been enhanced over this period, and to help inform the future direction of the Centenary commemorations.

Interim survey results - Word document (4 MB)

Interim survey results - PDF document (4 MB)

Survey design

The survey questions were designed to gather detailed data specific to age, gender, ethnicity and region. The interim survey had four main areas of enquiry:

  • Knowledge of the First World War
  • Commemorating the Centenary of the First World War (WW100)
  • Family participation in the First World War
  • National Identity and the First World War

Highlights from 2016 survey results

Changes in New Zealander’s knowledge and understanding of the First World War since 2012

New Zealanders’ knowledge of the First World War has increased during the commemorative period, albeit the shifts have been fairly small in nature.  On a self-reporting basis, 83% have at least a ‘basic’ understanding of New Zealand’s involvement in the First World War and 92% were aware of at least one battle or front of the First World War.  These response rates have increased by 4% over the 2012 survey, which is a statistically significant change. 

Gallipoli is the most well-known First World War front, with 83% of respondents identifying it. The Western Front is the next most recognised fighting front (63%).

Knowledge of Māori involvement in the First World War is higher amongst Māori (62%) than the general population (50%) which may indicate that more needs to be done to highlight Māori experiences to a wider audience.

The research points to a strong general interest amongst New Zealanders’ about this period of our history, and so there are opportunities to generate more in-depth insight and knowledge amongst New Zealanders who already had a good basic understanding about the First World War and its impacts.

Would you like to learn more about New Zealand’s experiences on the Western Front and Gallipoli? Download our free Ngā Tapuwae First World War Trails app, full of personal stories, images and historical accounts.

Importance of the First World War Centenary commemorations

The vast majority of New Zealanders support the importance of commemorating the Centenary of the First World War. This sentiment has strengthened since the start of the WW100 commemorations in 2014, with a statistically significant increase in the numbers rating the commemorations as very important from 48% in 2012 to 52% in 2016.

The main two reason given for why it is important to commemorate the First World War are:

(1) to honour and remember the sacrifices made

(2) because the War is an important part of New Zealand history, and has shaped our national identity

The minority of New Zealanders who did not think it important to commemorate the Centenary cited reasons such as not wanting to glorify war or that the First World War is longer relevant to modern New Zealand.

Involvement in WW100 commemorations

The majority of respondents have been involved in at least one WW100-related activity since the start of our commemorations. The response rate from young people (aged 15-19) was particularly encouraging, with nearly 90% having been involved in at least one First World War related activity since 2012.

Over two thirds of those who completed the survey had attended or followed at least one commemorative ceremony in the last two years, with Anzac Day services being the most popular. The elements of these ceremonies that left the most lasting impression included the atmosphere of dawn, the sound of a bugle playing the ‘Last Post’ and the sight of people from all generations gathering together to pay their respects. 

If you are interested in attending one of our upcoming WW100 commemorative ceremonies check out ww100.govt.nz/national-ceremonies

Personal engagement with the First World War

Personal connections remain a key motivator for New Zealanders to learn more about the First World War, with nearly a quarter of New Zealanders showing an interest in exploring their own family’s First World War story, and researching into their family’s genealogy.

Interested in finding out about your family’s First World War connections? Try the Auckland War Memorial’s Online Cenotaph database for the service records of all New Zealand’s First World War soldiers

Perspectives of the First World War and National Identity

Both the 2012 and 2016 surveys explored the relevance of the First World War in developing New Zealand’s national identity. There has been a statistically significant increase in the proportion of New Zealanders who consider the First World War is relevant in developing our national identity, from 77% in 2012 to 81% in 2016. This sentiment has strengthened over time, with a higher proportion now thinking it is ‘very relevant’ (from 26% up to 29%).

The 2016 survey noted an important demographic difference in responses amongst Māori respondents. Although overall Māori respondents were slightly less likely to rate the First World War as relevant in shaping New Zealand’s national identity, those who did rate it as relevant did so more strongly, with 41% of Māori respondents rating it as ‘very relevant’, versus only 29% of all respondents.

Related Links

2012 Benchmark Survey results

2018 WW100 Final Survey

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