A new Talbot Mills poll shows 60% of New Zealanders agree the government should call for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict.
Only 12% disagreed that there should be a ceasefire.
The remainder were either neutral or unsure.
The poll was conducted by Talbot Mills, a research company often used in election polling.
It was paid for by a group of Palestinian-New Zealand community members who crowdfunded to commission it.
The poll asked the question: "To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: The New Zealand government should call for an immediate ceasefire in Israel and Palestine to prevent further civilian deaths."
It polled a nationally-representative sample of 1040 New Zealanders aged 18 and above, and was conducted between November 3 and 13.
This is consistent with standard political polls which usually poll around 1000 people.
The Research Association New Zealand code says political polls must use a sample size of at least 500 people to be considered accurate.
Over 11,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s bombardment in Gaza since October 7 - around one in every 200 people. At least 4609 were children.
Israel launched air strikes and then a ground invasion as a response to the Hamas attack on October 7, which killed about 1200 Israelis with around 239 taken hostage.
Poll results ‘confirmed what we already saw on the street’
Tameem Shaltoni, spokesperson for the group of Palestinian-New Zealanders who commissioned the poll, said the results confirmed public support for a ceasefire.
The group is not a formal organisation but is made up of a number of community members and different pro-Palestinian organisations, he said.
He said every week for the last five weeks, tens of thousands of people had marched across the country in demonstrations calling for a ceasefire.
“So our gut feeling was that there is already broad support but we wanted a scientific way to understand that support.”
“One Palestinian in Gaza is killed every five minutes and one child is killed every 10 minutes. So every 10 minutes that there's no ceasefire one child dies. That's why the call is to have an immediate ceasefire to save all those lives.”
The previous Labour government is acting as a caretaker government until coalition talks have finished and the new government is formed.
Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Grant Robertson said the government wanted “to see the next steps towards a ceasefire, but conditions on both sides need to be met first. Hostilities must stop to allow humanitarian aid and support to get to those in need, and hostages need to be released”.
“That means both sides must act to ensure there are safe zones for non-combatants, to allow access for humanitarian aid, and to implement mutually-agreed pauses in hostilities that allow civilians and humanitarians to move safely.
"Both Israel and Hamas must respect international law.. We expect Israel and Hamas not just to respect, but to protect civilian lives in their operations in Gaza.”
A National spokesperson told Re: News: “National supports calls for next steps towards a ceasefire and regrets that the conditions do not presently exist for this.”
“Questions on New Zealand’s position are ultimately a matter for the caretaker Government.”
Jewish community response
New Zealand Jewish Council spokesperson Juliet Moses said the poll was “meaningless”.
“We all want a ceasefire, we all want the death and destruction to end, but the question that needs to be asked is, ‘On what terms?’
“For example, if they had asked the question ‘Do you think that the Israeli hostages that are being held by Hamas should be returned as part of a ceasefire?’ or ‘Do you think Hamas should remain in power?’, that would be a more informative question and response.”
She said if there was a ceasefire right now “that means Hamas has time to re-group and re-arm and that it will be able, as it has announced very clearly, to repeat October 7 over and over again, and that's not a situation that any state or any responsible government could allow to happen”.
She said for a ceasefire to happen, Hamas needed to “unconditionally surrender”.
Co-founder of the group Dayenu: New Zealand Jews Against Occupation Justine Sachs said she “fundamentally reject[ed] the premise of that statement”.
She said the Israeli government’s operation was not targeted at Hamas but was killing civilians.
“It’s collective punishment which is a war crime, and that needs to stop. The IRA [Irish Republican Army] was another political entity that engaged in terrorism, but you didn't see the British government level Dublin in response to the IRA. You can’t collectively punish a population for the actions of a political group.
“In the wake of 9/11, we saw the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and we did not get rid of radical islamic extremism, because from that came ISIS. So there’s recent history we can point to and say, what you're doing is only going to feed extremism, this onslaught on a civilian population is not justifiable.”
She said the poll mirrored what she had been hearing in the community.
“New Zealanders are shocked at what is happening at Gaza, at the extent of the Israeli military’s siege, their targeting of the civilian population and the human cost of this military invasion and the seeming disregard for Palestinian life.”
59% of National voters agreed with a ceasefire
Poll respondents across the political spectrum agreed with a ceasefire. The results were:
Green: 76% agree, 4% disagree
Labour: 70%, 9% disagree
National: 59% agree, 13% disagree
NZ First: 47% agree, 19% disagree
ACT: 43% agree, 25% disagree
Shaltoni said this demonstrated it was not just left-wing voters who wanted a ceasefire.
“It's important to demonstrate that within the National party voting base, there's huge interest to call for an immediate ceasefire, so this is an important message for the incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon.”
He said the result that NZ First voters and ACT voters were around twice as likely to agree with a ceasefire than disagree “demonstrates that the preference for an immediate ceasefire is much higher across the board, and is consistent with common sense: killing civilians is wrong and needs to stop”.
Similar polls from the United States and the UK
Recent polls from the United States and the UK have also shown a majority support a ceasefire.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken in the United States on Monday and Tuesday this week showed 68% of Americans agreed with the statement “Israel should call a ceasefire and try to negotiate”.
Support for Israel was dropping, with 32% saying “the US should support Israel”, down from 41% a month ago.
A YouGov poll from the UK on October 20 found 76% of British adults said there should either definitely or probably be an immediate ceasefire.
The New Zealand government has not called for a ceasefire
On October 25 it called for a humanitarian pause in Gaza in a statement to the United Nations Security Council.
The statement called for establishing “humanitarian corridors” for water, food, fuel, medicines and other basics of life, and “designated safe areas that are strictly off limits as targets”.
New Zealand’s statement was issued by caretaker Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and then-Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta following consultation with incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon.
The statement called on all parties involved “to act in accordance with international law, and also demonstrate basic humanity”.
The statement said New Zealand “supports the right of Israel to defend itself against Hamas’s terrorist attacks,” but said “the way it does so matters. It must abide by international law, exercise restraint, and prioritise the protection of civilians”.
“We are appalled by Hamas’s brutality, their targeting of civilians, and the taking of hostages, which are in clear violations of international law. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages,” Chris Hipkins said in the statement.
“Ultimately there is no military solution that will bring about a just and lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” Nanaia Mahuta said.
On October 27, New Zealand voted for a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for an immediate and sustained “humanitarian truce” between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
The resolution passed, with 120 member states, including New Zealand, voting in favour, and 14 against, including Israel, the US and six Pacific countries. 45, including Australia and the United Kingdom, abstained.
Israel and the United States said the resolution gave Israel “no right to defend itself”, and the US Ambassador to the UN said it was an “omission of evil” to not mention Hamas.
On November 10, the United States said Israel agreed to four-hour “humanitarian pauses” each day to allow for aid to enter. An Israeli military spokesperson said there would be “no ceasefire”.
On November 15 the United Nations Security Council backed a resolution calling for humanitarian pauses that are longer than the current four-hour ones.
It called for “urgent extended humanitarian pauses for [a] sufficient number of days to allow aid access” and humanitarian corridors across Gaza, and urged the release of all hostages held by Hamas.
The resolution passed 12-3, with the US and the UK abstaining from the vote because the resolution didn’t have explicit criticism of Hamas.
Russia abstained because the resolution did not mention an immediate ceasefire.
There are only 15 countries who are members of the Security Council and New Zealand is not currently one of them, so was not able to be part of the vote.
Has the New Zealand government response been enough?
Juliet Moses of the New Zealand Jewish Council said the government had done very little because of the caretaker government situation, “but generally the position it has taken so far, I think it’s fine”.
“There does seem to be an understanding that Hamas cannot remain in power. If it does remain in power that allows it to continue to hold its own people hostage, the two million people who live under its rule and are terrorised as much as Israelis.”
She hoped the incoming government would “hold that position that Hamas does need to be destroyed for the sake of both the Palestinian people and the Israeli people. Without Hamas being destroyed there cannot be a meaningful sustained peace.
“That is certainly what we want to see, we want to see the Palestinian people living in their own state peacefully and securely alongside the Israeli people living in their own state peacefully and securely, but that certainly cannot happen while Hamas remains in power.”
Tameem Shaltoni of the Palestinian-New Zealand group who commissioned the poll said the government response hasn't been in line with public opinion and that he was hugely concerned about the situation in Gaza.
“We want to stop it immediately and that’s why we were interested in knowing how broad the public support is,” he said.
Shaltoni said it’s “not just the moral choice, but the democratic one because we have the majority of people calling for it”.
He said the government’s actions weren’t in line with how it reacted to other foreign affairs situations like the Russia-Ukraine war, “where New Zealand took a really principled position based on international law and our own values, but we're not seeing a similar action in the West Bank and Gaza”.
This article was edited on Friday November 17 to add comment from Foreign Minister Grant Robertson that arrived after our publishing deadline.
Image: People gathered at a pro-Palestinian rally in Christchurch on November 11, 2023. (Photo taken by Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Caitlin McGee reflects on the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict in the latest issue of The Review.
Rallies were held across the country.
The violence over the past two weeks is the result of decades of tension over the disputed region.