Social Indicators Research

, Volume 136, Issue 2, pp 539–555 | Cite as

Yet Another Case of Nordic Exceptionalism? Extending Existing Evidence for a Causal Relationship Between Institutional and Social Trust to the Netherlands and Switzerland

  • Nico SeifertEmail author


Social trust has typically been considered a deep-seated, thus stable, disposition. However, in accordance with institutional theory, a recent analysis applying fixed effects regressions provides strong evidence for a causal influence of trust in state institutions on social trust in Denmark, indicating that trust in other people might be malleable through the quality of state institutions. However, it is still unclear whether this finding can be generalised beyond the setting of Danish or Nordic exceptionalism—a social environment highly conducive to trust. Against this backdrop, the purpose of this study is to test the institutional theory in two other European countries: the Netherlands and Switzerland. Drawing on the LISS panel and the Swiss Household Panel, each with different strengths and weaknesses, the results provide further support for the idea that trust in the majority of other people is shaped by the trustworthiness of state institutions in Western societies.


Social trust Institutional trust Panel data Fixed effects regression 



The author thanks Peter Thisted Dinesen, Ingmar Rapp, Kathia Serrano-Velarde, Jan Eckhard and the participants of the research colloquium of Professor Thomas Klein at Heidelberg University for their feedback on earlier drafts of this paper. He also thanks three anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments. This study has been realised using the data collected by the Swiss Household Panel (SHP), which is based at the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences FORS. The project is financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The LISS panel data were collected by CentERdata (Tilburg University, The Netherlands) through its MESS project funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. The author is grateful for financial support by the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes).


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max-Weber-Institute of SociologyHeidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany

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