Advertisement

Social Indicators Research

, Volume 114, Issue 2, pp 703–722 | Cite as

But Who Are Those “Most People” That Can Be Trusted? Evaluating the Radius of Trust Across 29 European Societies

  • Tim ReeskensEmail author
Article

Abstract

As comparative research has repeatedly demonstrated that societies where people trust each other more easily are better able to generate a series of positive externalities, the study of generalized trust has taken pandemic forms. However, critical voices have warned that the levels of trust (the intensity to cooperate) are conceptually different from the radius of trust (with whom you would cooperate) (Fukuyama in Trust. The social virtues and the creation of prosperity. Free Press, New York, 1995). In this article, the classic trust question, i.e. whether “most people can be trusted or whether you cannot be too careful,” is brought in relation with tolerance towards cultural minorities, people with deviant behavior, and political extremists, as surveyed in the 2008 wave of the European Values Study. The results point to a hierarchy in social tolerance, furthermore indicating that while ‘trusters’ are more inclusive towards cultural minorities and people with deviant behavior, they are not substantially more tolerant towards extremist political voices compared to ‘distrusters’. Also, the radius of trust is context dependent, with especially economic modernization determining how wide the radius of trust is. We relate the findings of this study with recent research outcomes and implications for trust research.

Keywords

Generalized trust Radius of trust Modernization Cross-national analysis European Values Study 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank Paul de Graaf and Erik van Ingen for their intense reflections on this topic, as well as Hamutal Bernstein, Christian Bjørnskov and Jennifer Miller, as well as the anonymous reviewers for this journal for their thoughtful comments. An earlier version of this paper has been presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association (Chicago—April 12–15, 2012).

References

  1. Alesina, A., & La Ferrara, E. (2002). Who trusts others? Journal of Public Economics, 85(2), 207–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bergh, A., & Bjørnskov, C. (2011). Historical trust levels predict the current size of the welfare state. Kyklos, 64(1), 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bjørnskov, C. (2007). Determinants of generalized trust: A cross-country comparison. Public Choice, 130(1–2), 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Delhey, J., & Newton, K. (2005). Predicting cross-national levels of social trust: Global pattern or nordic exceptionalism? European Sociological Review, 21(4), 311–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Delhey, J., Newton, K., & Welzel, C. (2011). How general is trust in “Most People”? Solving the radius of trust problem. American Sociological Review, 76(5), 786–807.Google Scholar
  6. Eurostat. (2010). Eurostat statistics database Brussels: European Commission. http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/statistics/search_database.
  7. EVS Foundation/Tilburg University. (2010). European Values Study 2008, 4th wave, integrated dataset. Cologne: GESIS.Google Scholar
  8. Freitag, M., & Traunmüller, R. (2009). Spheres of trust: An empirical analysis of the foundations of particularized and generalized trust. European Journal of Political Research, 48(6), 782–803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fukuyama, F. (1995). Trust. The social virtues and the creation of prosperity. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  10. Fukuyama, F. (1999). The great disruption. Human nature and the reconstitution of social order. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  11. Fukuyama, F. (2001). Social capital, civil society and development. Third World Quarterly, 22(1), 7–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fukuyama, F. (2002). Social capital and development: The coming agenda. SAIS Review, 22(1), 23–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gelman, A., & Hill, J. (2006). Data analysis using regression and multilevel/hierarchical models. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gesthuizen, M., van der Meer, T., & Scheepers, P. (2009). Ethnic diversity and social capital in Europe. Tests of Putnam’s thesis in European countries. Scandinavian Political Studies, 32(2), 121–142.Google Scholar
  15. Hardin, R. (2001). Conceptions and explanations of trust. In K. S. Cook (Ed.), Trust in society (pp. 3–39). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  16. Hardin, R. (2006). Trust. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  17. Helliwell, J. F., & Putnam, R. D. (2004). The social context of well-being. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Studies, 359, 1435–1446.Google Scholar
  18. Hooghe, M., & Stolle, D. (2003). Generating social capital. Civil society and institutions in comparative perspective. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  19. Hooghe, M., Reeskens, T., Stolle, D., & Trappers, A. (2009). Ethnic diversity and generalized trust in Europe. A cross-national multilevel study. Comparative Political Studies, 42(2), 198–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hox, J. J. (2010). Multilevel analysis. Techniques and applications (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Inglehart, R. (1977). The silent revolution: Changing values and political styles in advanced industrial society. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Inglehart, R. (1997). Modernization and post-modernization. Cultural, economic, and political changes in 43 societies. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Kesler, C., & Bloemraad, I. (2010). Does immigration erode social capital? The conditional effects of immigration-generated diversity on trust, membership, and participation across 19 Countries, 1981–2000. Canadian Journal of Political Science, 43(2), 319–347.Google Scholar
  24. Knack, S. J., & Keefer, P. (1997). Does social capital have an economic payoff? A cross-country investigation. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112(4), 1251–1288.Google Scholar
  25. Kumlin, S., & Rothstein, B. (2005). Making and breaking social capital: The impact of welfare institutions. Comparative Political Studies, 38(4), 339–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Letki, N. (2008). Does diversity erode social cohesion? Social capital and race in british neighborhoods. Political Studies, 56(1), 99–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Cook, J. M. (2001). Birds of a feather: Homophily in social networks. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 415–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Messick, D., & Kramer, R. (2001). Trust as a form of shallow morality. In K. Cook (Ed.), Trust in society (pp. 89–117). New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  29. Mishler, W., & Rose, R. (1997). Trust, distrust and skepticism. Popular Evaluations of civil and political institutions in post-communist societies. Journal of Politics, 59(2), 418–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nannestad, P. (2008). What have we learned about generalized trust, if anything? Annual Review of Political Science, 11, 413–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Newton, K. (2007). Social and political trust. In R. J. Dalton & H. P. Kingemann (Eds.), The oxford handbook of political behavior (pp. 342–361). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Norris, P. (2009). Democracy crossnational data. Release 3.0. Cambridge: Harvard Kennedy School of Government.Google Scholar
  33. Offe, C. (1999). How can we trust our fellow citizens? In M. Warren (Ed.), Democracy and trust (pp. 42–88). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Putnam, R. D. (1993). Making democracy work. Modern traditions in civic Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone. The collapse and revival of american community life. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  36. Putnam, R. D. (2007). E pluribus unum. Diversity and community in the twentieth- first century. Scandinavian Political Studies, 30(2), 137–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Realo, A., Allik, J., & Greenfield, B. (2008). Radius of trust. Social capital in relation to familism and institutional collectivism. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 39(4), 447–462.Google Scholar
  38. Reeskens, T., & Hooghe, M. (2008). Cross-cultural measurement equivalence of generalized trust. Evidence from the European social survey (2002 and 2004). Social Indicators Research, 85(3), 515–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rokeach, M., Smith, P. W., & Evans, R. I. (1960). Two kinds of prejudice or one. In M. Rokeach (Ed.), The open and the closed mind: Investigations into the nature of belief systems and personality systems (pp. 132–168). New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  40. Rose, R. (1994). Postcommunism and the problem of trust. Journal of Democracy, 5(3), 18–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rosenberg, M. (1956). Misanthropy and political ideology. American Sociological Review, 21(6), 690–695.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rothstein, B., & Stolle, D. (2008). The state and social capital. An institutional theory of generalized trust. Comparative Politics, 40(4), 441–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sturgis, P., & Smith, P. (2010). Assessing the validity of generalized trust questions: What kind of trust are we measuring? International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 22(1), 74–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Subramanian, S. V., Kawachi, I., & Kennedy, B. P. (2001). Does the state you live in make a difference? A multilevel analysis of self-related health in the US. Social Science & Medicine, 53(1), 9–19.Google Scholar
  45. Sztompka, P. (1999). Trust. A sociological theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Tolsma, J., van der Meer, T., & Gesthuizen, M. (2009). The impact of neighborhood and municipality characteristics on social cohesion in the Netherlands. Acta Politica, 44(3), 309–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Traunmüller, R. (2011). Moral communities? Religion as a source of social trust in a multilevel analysis of 97 German regions. European Sociological Review, 27(3), 346–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Uslaner, E. M. (2002). The moral foundations of trust. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Uslaner, E. M. (2008). Corruption, inequality, and the rule of law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Uslaner, E. M., & Brown, M. (2005). Inequality, trust and civic engagement. American Politics Research, 33(6), 868–894.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Welch, M. R., Sikkink, D., & Loveland, M. T. (2007). The radius of trust: Religion, social embeddedness and trust in strangers. Social Forces, 86(1), 23–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. World Bank (2010). Worldwide governance indicators [URL:http://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/mc_countries.asp]. Washington: The World Bank Group.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.KU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

Personalised recommendations