Social and Political Trust

By Professor Kenneth Newton


This module contains three chapters, which are briefly described below. The most important theoretical concepts are social trust and political trust. Central questions in this module are: What is social trust? Why are some people more trusting than others? What is the main difference between social trust and political trust? It is recommended that you start with the first chapter, and then proceed chronologically. In this way you will gradually develop your skills and understanding.

Chapter 1: Social trust and its origin

In this chapter the concept of social trust is defined and operationalised, and two basic theories about its origin are briefly outlined. In the exercise at the end of the chapter you will explore ESS data.

Chapter 2: Explaining social trust

This chapter will show you how a test of the explanatory power of the two theories might be designed. You will be asked to prepare the data for analysis, create an additive index, use factor analysis to create a new variable, and finally use regression to compare the explanatory power of the two theories.

Chapter 3: Political Trust

Political trust and social trust are similar in some ways, but different in others. Social or interpersonal trust can be based upon immediate, first-hand experiences of others, whereas political trust is more generally learned indirectly and at a distance. Chapter 3 deals with the similarities and differences between the concepts.