Survey Variable: General Social Trust

Figure 1. See also Table A1.

In addition to features of their own networks, such as the status and homogeneity of their acquaintances, how often they see the people they know, and the help that they can ask for, social capital also covers people’s dispositions towards society more generally. The survey did not cover this area extensively, because of its focus on social capital that is specific to individuals and groups, but it did ask whether people view others as generally trustworthy or not. This disposition is referred to as general social trust and, as Figure 1 (above, using weighted data) shows, runs on a ten-point scale from ‘You can’t be too careful about people’ (1) to ‘Most people can be trusted’ (10).

More people (54.7%) err on the side of trusting others than on the side of being suspicious of them (45.3%). However, the two largest categories are ‘7’ (18.8%) and 6 (18.5%), which are close to the middle of the scale and thus indicate that even those who are trusting also wish to guard against untrustworthy people. Only one in twenty-three people (4.3%) place themselves in the two most trusting categories, whilst one in nine (11.8%) place themselves in the two least trusting categories. Thus, overall, people tend to be willing to give others the benefit of the doubt but indicate caution in this regard, whilst a large minority are more sceptical and a notable sub-group of those express extreme caution regarding the trustworthiness of others.

Published by joegreenwoodhau

Joe Greenwood-Hau is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Government & Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde, where he works on the Capital, Privilege and Political Participation in Britain and Beyond project.

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