Social trust around the world differs by age, education

Neighbors speak from their balconies on April 23, 2020, in El Prat del Llobregat, Spain. (David Ramos/Getty Images)
Neighbors speak from their balconies on April 23, 2020, in El Prat del Llobregat, Spain. (David Ramos/Getty Images)

Trust in other people is relatively high in 14 advanced economies surveyed by Pew Research Center this past summer. But while a median of 62% of adults across these countries generally believe most people can be trusted, there are significant differences in these views by age, education and other factors, according to a new analysis of findings from the survey.

This analysis examines social trust in 14 advanced economies. Pew Research Center has long tracked views on trust in the United States, but this analysis marks the first time we have explored social trust across multiple countries.

The analysis relies on data from nationally representative surveys of 14,276 adults conducted from June 10 to Aug. 3, 2020. All surveys were conducted over the phone with adults in the U.S., Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the UK, Australia, Japan and South Korea.

The study was conducted in countries where nationally representative telephone surveys are feasible. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, face-to-face interviewing is not currently possible in many parts of the world.

Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.

Majorities in most surveyed countries say most people can be trusted

Overall, personal trust is highest in Denmark, where 86% say most people can generally be trusted. Majorities in 10 other countries agree, including about seven-in-ten or more in the Netherlands, Canada, Sweden, Australia and the UK.

People are more divided in Spain and France, where 53% and 50%, respectively, say most other people can be trusted. The only country where fewer than half of respondents say most people are trustworthy is Italy, where 43% hold that opinion.

Research has shown that personal trust in the U.S. is linked to broader confidence in democratic institutions, greater communal participation and fewer reported negative feelings like anxiety and depression.

Younger people less likely to say most people can be trusted

In the United States, younger adults are less trusting of other people than their older counterparts, according to previous findings from the Center. The new study finds that the same pattern holds across many other advanced economies.

In most of the countries surveyed, younger people are significantly less likely than older people to say that others can be trusted. The divide is most pronounced in Sweden, where 53% of adults under 30 trust other people, compared with 77% of those ages 50 and up. There also are significant gaps between younger and older people in Australia, Japan, the UK, Canada, South Korea, the U.S., Denmark and the Netherlands.

In a few countries, those ages 18 to 29 are about as likely as those 50 and older to say most people can be trusted. In France, for example, 45% of younger people hold this opinion, compared with 49% of older people.

In the U.S., research on how this age gap changes over time is contentious. Some researchers posit that it may be due to differences between generational cohorts, while other research finds that individuals may become more

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