My good friend Chris runs the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study. This is a 20-year longitudinal study of social attitudes, personality and health outcomes. It is unique to New Zealand, and has now been running for around seven years.
There is a big article about it in the Herald today.
Last July, when a nationwide row about racism erupted on the back of Asian buyers being blamed for Auckland’s housing woes, these researchers happily demonstrated to us how our attitudes to Asian people were actually becoming more positive.
An annual study by the Asia New Zealand Foundation supports this too, yet political parties, individual politicians, and sometimes the media would have us think otherwise.
“For example, one of the interesting things that this type of data can be used to look at is ‘why do some people change more than others’ or ‘why do some people stay so consistent in their values over time’ whereas other people tend to change?”, Dr Sibley told the Herald.
This is key. Tracking the views of individuals over time provides insight into how and why negative (and positive) attitudes form and change. You need longitudinal data to do this.
“For example, we’ve been tracking rates of sexism since we began in 2009, and we can now confidently state that we are seeing a gradual, but steady, decline in sexism in the New Zealand population.
“The key to our research project is that we can quantify this change, we can model exactly how quickly sexism is decreasing and to what degree – it’s a small change each year, but it’s reliably there in the data.”
If we didn’t ask questions about sexism, we wouldn’t possibly be able to know this.
You can follow the NZAVS on Twitter @NZAVS, or check out their website.