The individual-oriented theory we have chosen to examine is termed the "Success and well-being" theory. This theory argues that it is the winners in society, or those who have experienced success in adult life, who are trusting.

Our societal theory is termed "Voluntary Organisation" theory. In this school, the classic view is that a society that is well founded upon a large and varied range of voluntary associations and organisations is likely to generate high levels of trust.

When one is planning to test theories by using survey data, it is necessary to find variables which might shed light on the theory. This is both an empirical and a theoretical exercise. The first step is to use theory and logic to identify the relevant variables, and the second step is to actually test the connection using real world data. The two theories of concern to us have already been operationalised in previous research, and for the sake of simplicity we will use these variables. Table 1.1 lists the two theoretical approaches, and the variables that may be used as measures:

Table 1.1. Two theories of social trust and related variables
Individual Success and well-being theory
  • Life satisfaction
  • Happiness
  • Household income
  • Satisfaction with household income
  • Unemployment
Social Voluntary organisation theory Membership of organisations

Follow the link to the dataset Trust and solve the exercises:

  1. Investigate the frequencies on the variable "Most people can be trusted or you can't be too careful". Subset the data to one or a combination of countries. If you only choose one country, you should use the design weight. If you select several countries, you should also use the population size weight.

    Read more about the use of weights in the 'User guide'


    Subset: Click the icon "Subset". Click the variable "Country" in the left margin and select "Add to subset". Pick your countries. (Press the Ctrl key when you use the mouse to select the countries; then you can select several at a time.) Press "OK" when you are finished.

    Weight: Click the icon "Weight". Select the variable "Design weight". (If you have included more than one country, you should also use "Population size weight".) Press "Ok" when you are done.

    Frequency: Click "Table", click the variable "Most people can be trusted or you can't be too careful" and select "Add to row".

  2. Is it possible to identify "low trust" and "high trust" countries? Solution

    To answer this question, you could run a cross tabulation between "Most people can be trusted or you can't be too careful" (Add to row) and "Country" (Add to column).

    It is sufficient to use the design weight when you compare countries this way (without reference to the average of those countries).

  3. Experiment with different graphical presentations of the result – tables of percentages, bar charts, and pie charts. Finally, you could create a table with descriptive statistics. Add "country" to row and set the "trust" variable as measure.
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