Concern with what can explain variation in generalized social trust has led to an abundance of theoretical models. Defining generalized social trust as a belief in human benevolence, we focus on the emancipation theory and social capital theory as well as the ethnic diversity and economic development models of trust. We then determine which dimensions of individuals’ behavior and attitudes as well as of their national context are the most important predictors. Using data from 20 countries that participated in round one of the European Social Survey, we test these models at their respective level of analysis, individual and/or national. Our analysis revealed that individuals’ own trust in the political system as a moral and competent institution was the most important predictor of generalized social trust at the individual level, while a country’s level of affluence was the most important contextual predictor, indicating that different dimensions are significant at the two levels of analysis. This analysis also raised further questions as to the meaning of social capital at the two levels of analysis and the conceptual equivalence of its civic engagement dimension across cultures.
|Journal||Journal of Cross-cultural Psychology|
|Publication status||Published - 2011|