Can Diversity Promote Trust? Neighbourhood Context and Trust in the Police in Northern Ireland

  • Topping, J. (Contributor)
  • Ben Bradford (Contributor)
  • Richard Martin (Contributor)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


The association between trust in the police and neighbourhood-level factors such as deprivation, disorder and social cohesion is well established. As an embodiment of the state’s effort to reproduce normative social order, the police garner trust when community settings are perceived as orderly, cohesive and well-functioning. Conversely, trust is undermined when order and cohesion seem attenuated or under threat. Yet no attention has been paid to the association between neighbourhood diversity and trust in the police. Allport’s contact hypothesis suggests that because diversity increases intergroup contact and thus a sense of cohesion, it may promote trust in the police. In this paper we use data from a nationally representative survey conducted in 2014, combined with Census and other local-area data, to explore the association between ethno-religious diversity and trust in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). We find that trust is higher in more diverse areas, primarily because Catholics living in such areas report significantly higher levels of trust than their counterparts living in less diverse areas. We interpret these results in light of what policing ‘means’ in contemporary Northern Ireland, along with implications for attempts to enhance police-community trust in segregated and divided societies more generally.
Period07 Jul 2017
Event titleBritish Society of Criminology Conference 2017: Forging Social Justice Local Challenges, Global Complexities
Event typeConference
LocationSheffield, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • policing
  • police
  • Police Service of Northern Ireland
  • trust
  • confidence
  • community diversity