Social trust: individual and cross-national approaches
Portugese Journal of Social Science, 3, (1), . (doi:10.1386/pjss.3.1.15/0).
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Social trust is often said to be the essence of social capital. Trusting citizens are good citizens. Theorists argue that voluntary associations are crucial to the association between trust and social capital, on the one hand, and vibrant and stable democracy, on the other. Unfortunately, there is not a great deal of convincing evidence to support this important theory. At the individual level, it is rather hard to explain the origins of trust insofar as it is not closely associated with many of the usual array of social characteristics such as education, income, class, race, age, or gender. Most research deals with social trust at the individual level. However, there are theoretical reasons to expect social capital to operate at the societal level of social systems - local, regional, or national. If we turn our attention to the cross-national comparison of countries then we do discover a close association between measures of social capital and democratic development. Comparing 60 countries covered by the third wave of the World Values Study shows that social trust is strongly associated with a range of societal characteristics that underpin democratic development and stability.
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