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Survey: Former East less trusting than former West

The Local · 29 Sep 2011, 16:42

Published: 29 Sep 2011 16:42 GMT+02:00

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The study, the results of which were released this week by Jacobs University in Bremen, found that trust is generally strongest in western, modernized countries and weakest in poorer countries.

Of the countries surveyed, people in Sweden, Switzerland and Norway trust others the most, while those in Turkey, Rwanda and Trinidad and Tobago are the least trusting.

Germany’s ranking was split, based on past research and how the survey evolved: western Germany placed 7th, while former communist eastern Germany 11th.

Sociology professor Jan Delhey, who co-authored the study, said the researchers were less interested in the differences within Germany, because they wanted to make a bigger international and cross-cultural comparison.

But he said being an ex-communist country is one factor in determining a country’s general level of trust.

“Rule of law is very important in generating and sustaining trust in other people,” Delhey told The Local. “East Germany had the legacy of being a socialist country for at least 40 years. In socialist countries the state is very suspicious of its citizens, instilling a general climate of distrust. That would be our main explanation.”

“If you look at our list of countries, we do see that none of the countries in the upper ranking is a post-communist country,” he said.

The differences between the formerly divided halves of the country are not huge, the professor emphasized: “If you put them together, Germany would be ranked at either 8 or 9,” he said.

For the researchers, there were two main questions that needed answers. First, what is trust?

“The most simple definition of trust is simply an expectation – an expectation that other people behave in a friendly way and do not harm you,” Delhey said.

The second question proved more problematic: Who are "other people"?

Although empirical data on measures of trust and international rankings had been available for several decades, Delhey, along with co-authors Chris Welzel, professor at Leuphana University Lüneburg, and Kenneth Newton, emeritus professor at University of Southampton, were concerned that the measurements were not really comparing the same thing.

“In the past, we relied on one question: ‘Do you think most people can be trusted, yes or no?’ " Delhey said. But individual countries defined ‘most people’ differently. “We’re coming up with an international ranking, which is, for the first time, really comparable across countries and across cultures.”

Story continues below…

The study, “How General is Trust in 'Most People'? Solving the Radius of Trust Problem,” is particularly relevant because it showed a changing position of Asia, popularly believed to have a what Delhey called a particularly "wide trust radius."

Actually, “people in Asian countries have a very narrow trust radius, especially South Koreans, followed by Thai and Chinese,” Welzel said. “Their trust is extended toward familiar people, but not to strangers.”

Trust also has several benefits for society, including democracy, civil society and tolerance, Delhey said. Now that the measure of trust has been standardized, he hopes researchers will use it to find out more about the benefits of trust.

Erin Huggins

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

19:25 September 29, 2011 by catjones
I don't trust this survey.

'strongest in western, modernized countries and weakest in poorer countries.'

'trust is extended toward familiar people, but not to strangers'


USA... 'In God we trust'
19:37 September 29, 2011 by Celeon
I dont trust god.
21:51 September 29, 2011 by Wise Up!
"In socialist countries the state is very suspicious of its citizens, instilling a general climate of distrust. That would be our main explanation.¦quot;


Citizens of a post-communist country don't trust because they have been lied to by their their gov't, in the case of East Germany, for over 40 years!!
07:36 October 2, 2011 by shahislam
To: infoseeker

I try to observe things from far away, as if viewing the earth from space and therefore, unable to see details.

I believe in God without any of the religions and my understanding is: you also trust in God and I believe it is a nice matter for you too.

All the creations and their particular rule based activities are nothing but play of God-who is free from any kind of blames. So, I try to take things as easy as possible (through a somewhat uncommon processing of my own mind, I think, which is in my control in a trying to be well balanced personal style.

I have a fact:

I got severe physical injury because of or as a result of Canadian Crown's approval of a false case against me-involving a beautiful younger lady and it was initially arranged by some extremely negative envious minds at a work place.

Subsequently a big mistake has been done by our great judicial system because the Crown was mislead in the first place by some (Newfoundlanders?).

I took that easy and the result is: Myself and the personnel of the Crown Corporation are treating each other respectfully for the last 3 years and mutually trying to find hidden true facts avoiding nasty fights of 'Blame game'-which produces nothing good at the end of the day..

Not balanced with sane-Positivity, the extreme Negativity in the form of criminal instincts in human mind is the most dangerous thing on earth.

My understanding of Obama is: he is a more balanced man than many other leaders and capable of doing more than what we have seen so far.I think my /our religionless God is blessing him.

He is closing a burden of businesses started by GOP leaders a decade ago and only for winning support of 'bloody action seeking, negatively powerful minded portion of the US public', he has no choice but to order killings of 'hard to catch terrorists', instead of slow approach and bring them under ICC and let the common world public hear "their side of the facts" and learn how secret conspiracy, 'blind beliefs' etc. may cause hatred, wars etc.

Here is an excerpt (mainly of philosophical views) from my case filing: ..............................By watching closely how a few human minds, in the shield of illusory old judicial structure can play ¦#39;the clever games of manipulations¦#39; through the loopholes of the current system, I have recently learned a lot more things. So, I have to write in details to let my fellow Canadians and the Global Public know about my highly beneficial findings which are identical when comparing with even those in the broader perspective on the will be outnumbered by the very common ¦#39;the negative ones¦#39;-which is majority because of ignorance problem of the West. ............
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