Do Strangers Trust Strangers? Perceived Generalized Trust of Fellow Citizens As an Indicator of Social Capital

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Antti KOUVO, University of Eastern Finland, Finland
One of the most common indicators of social capital is generalized (social) trust, which expresses to what extent people trust each other – including also those they do not personally know. A common idea behind of generalized trust is that others will act in a reciprocal manner and will not intentionally harm you. The importance of reciprocity, moral obligations and encapsulated interests for the definition of generalized is often acknowledged. Thus, besides trustworthiness, the operationalization may also contain survey items about the fairness and helpfulness of other people, for example. There is a huge body of literature about the variation, predictors and outcomes of generalized trust in which generalized trust is operationalized as described above. Little is known, however, whether the respondents of the survey questionnaires perceive that other members of society share the similar views about the trustworthiness of the others.

The idea of the study is to analyze the perceived generalized trust of fellow citizens for the first time with a representative national survey data. The data come from the welfare and services survey (HYPA) gathered in 2013 in Finland (N=4,226). In the questionnaire, the Finns were asked whether they think that “People trust each other in our society” with a Likert scale item. Besides correlations and descriptive statistics, we apply logistic and linear regression models with average marginal effects as the methods. Our results show that generalized trust operationalized in this way produces different results compared with the standard measures of generalized trust. For example, the association with the institutional trust is stronger and with the civic engagement weaker. The theoretical and methodological implications are discussed.