Social trust and denominational concentration: A cross-national examination of religion and trust




Sullivan, Adam John

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This study extends the understanding of the relationship between social trust (specifically, confidence in or reliance on others) and religious homogeneity. Social trust is widely recognized as a valuable individual and collective resource. Hence, there is merit in identifying sources that positively affect the level of trust that individuals exhibit toward others. Religion, founded on the premise of trust, is a major force in influencing social relationships among individuals within and outside of the religious group. Particularized trust is confidence in persons known and familiar to the trustor, whereas generalized trust is a willingness to rely on strangers. Social trust results in meaningful cooperation and collective actions that benefit society. Previous research has shown that religious participation and affiliation are determinants of the level of trust an individual expresses in others. Religious homogeneity within a country, a heretofore ignored aggregate measure of religiosity, represents the diversity of the country's religious affiliations and should be a predictor of the country's level of particularized and generalized trust as expressed by individuals residing in the country. A cross-national survey analysis was undertaken using data from twenty-six Judeo-Christian concentrated countries to examine the effect of religious homogeneity on social trust. Four hypotheses were proposed to predict the relationship between trust and religious homogeneity, thereby aiming to answer the question, "Do individuals in religiously homogeneous countries express higher levels of trust than their counterparts in religiously heterogeneous countries?" Using responses to standard questions on trust from the 2005 World Values Survey (Wave A), four hypotheses were tested. The analysis revealed that countries that were especially high in both religious homogeneity and religious heterogeneity had higher levels of particularized, generalized, and overall trust. The study also showed that countries with moderate religious homogeneity had lower levels of particularized, generalized, and overall trust. The findings of the research validate the argument that religion does influence the level of trust that individuals express regionally through the compounded effect of denominational affiliation and denominational concentration, although the nature of this association is subject to concentration thresholds.


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Homogeneity, Trust