No drop in New Zealanders' trust after Christchurch shootings, study shows

Fifty-one people were killed in the Christchurch shootings.
Fifty-one people were killed in the Christchurch shootings. Photo credit: Getty

It may have been said that New Zealand lost its innocence when 51 people were killed in the Christchurch shootings earlier this year. 

But even in spite of that horrific event Kiwis are just as trusting of others, a new study shows.

Researchers found that interpersonal trust was slightly up from the year before, and concluded that "there is no evidence of any systematic influence of the Christchurch shootings on trust".

"If the goal of the shootings was to lower trust in New Zealand, it has failed," authors Simon Chapple and Kate Prickett wrote.

According to Professor Richard Jackson, director of the National Centre of Peace and Conflict Studies at Otago University, terrorists like the alleged Christchurch shooter usually have multiple aims. 

"Often, they are seeking to communicate their grievance to a society that they feel doesn't hear them, they are trying to inspire others to follow their example, they are trying to intimidate their target audience into doing or not doing something, they are trying to provoke the authorities into reacting harshly and oppressively."

By committing acts that work to diminish trust in society, such terrorists "aim to polarise society between different groups and stoke hatred and conflict," Dr Jackson told Newshub. 

The Victoria University survey of 1000 people showed that interpersonal trust in New Zealand between 2018 and 2019 was "modestly on the rise". The study was originally conducted between 15 February and 10 March but following the Christchurch attacks "we decided to run the survey again to ascertain any changes in trust," the authors said. 

The second survey took place between 12 April and 18 April, and showed "no change in interpersonal trust following the shootings, in terms of either size or significance".

"Despite the scale and shock of the event, the clear conclusion is that trust was rock-like in response to the shootings."

As well as showing trust had not diminished, the study also "provided no evidence for any national 'coming together'".

Dr Jackson agreed that increased interpersonal trust meant the alleged shooter had failed in at least one of his goals.

"From this perspective, increased levels of social trust, especially between different cultural groups, is exactly the opposite of what the terrorists are hoping for and a sign of failure." 

However, he said, this would most likely not work as a deterrent to copycat act, as seen in the recent shooting in El Paso, Texas.

"Rising levels of social trust might inspire the terrorists to try even harder, and in most cases, it will not deter them. They will see it as a result of the fake news media and the social control that propaganda has on people's minds."



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