Political vs. Social 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 experience of others, whereas political trust is more generally learned indirectly and at a distance, usually through the media. Nevertheless, just as social trust is said to be essential for civilised social life, so political trust is said to be essential for democratic and stable political life. For example, recent research shows that social and political trust significantly increases the chances of citizens paying their taxes. Hence, trust improves the practical possibilities of social co-operation, while at the same time reducing the risks of free-riding citizens and exploitive elites.1

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

  1. Descriptive: Compare political and social trust. Use both weights, and compare both the frequencies and the means.
    Click the icon for weighting, select the the combined weight variable. When the weight has been selected and is visible in the box, press OK. Click "Trust in Parliament", and select "Add to row". Press "Clear" to empty the table, and repeat the procedure for "Most people can be trusted". Compare the frequencies. Clear the table, and select one of the variables as the measure. Clear the table and repeat for the other variable.

Like social trust, political trust would appear to be a reflection of the external or objective conditions. It is not an expression of a basic feature of "trusting personalities," but an evaluation of the political world. This makes trust scoring a litmus test of how well the political system is performing in the eyes of its citizens. Low trust suggests that something in the political system – politicians or institutions or both – is thought to be functioning poorly. It may be that performance is poor, or that expectations are too high, but either way low trust tells us that something is wrong.

  1. Compare Country Means: Create a table that displays each country's mean for the variable "Trust in parliament". Use design weight.
    Click the icon for weighting, and make sure that only dweight is in the box. Please remember to press OK. Click the variable "Country", and "Add to row". Click "Trust in Parliament" and "Add as measure".

Political trust is expected to be associated with a slightly different set of variables to those affecting social trust. It is even more widely distributed among social types, but not entirely randomly. Whereas social trust is associated with social variables measuring social and economic success, political trust is rather more strongly associated with a set of political variables measuring interest in politics, pride in the national political system, a belief in open government, a low priority given to social order and the left-right scale.

  1. Correlation: Find the bivariate correlations between the following variables: Social trust, political trust, voluntary associations index, success and well-being factor score, How interested in politics, Placement on left-right scale, How satisfied with the way democracy works in country. Use the combined weight. How would you interpret the correlations? Is political trust more strongly associated with the political variables?
    Start by adding the weight: Select the icon for "weighting" on the menu. Enter the "combined weight" into the box and press "OK". Then you should select "Analysis" on the menu, and click "Correlation". Enter the variables in the box, and press "OK".
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