Americans are finding it harder and harder to trust one another. Social trust in the United States, our trust in our fellow citizens, has fallen dramatically. In the early 1970s, around half of Americans said that most people can be trusted. Today that figure is less than a third. Political trust, trust in government and democracy, has fallen steeply as well. Throughout the 1960s, over 70 percent of Americans said they trusted government in Washington always or most of the time. By the early 1990s, that number had fallen below 30 percent, and after a brief rebound in the early…


Strong and fair legal and political systems, contact across divides, and economic security all help

“Hands Across the Divide,” Irish sculptor Maurice Harron. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

What is trust? Political scientists and economists have been thinking about this question for decades, and the literature they have created is complex, rich, and deep. Researchers not only define different types of trust, but also develop means of measuring it in surveys and experiments and construct models to explain how such trust is created and maintained. Reviewing the research, as we will see, shows that there are institutional factors that create trust in society and government. …

Kevin Vallier

Professor of Philosophy & Author of Trust in a Polarized Age (Oxford UP 2020) // kevinvallier.com

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