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Measuring trust in surveys

Measuring trust in surveys

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Measuring trust in surveys

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  1. Measuring trust in surveys Riitta Hanifi

  2. Trust • In statistical studies trust is a key indicator of social capital- However, measuring trust is associated with both conseptual and operational problems: • 1. Researchers are not agreed on the definition of trust or social capital 2. Measuring trust involves more general problems relating data collection for surveys The conventional way of establishing an indicator for measuring trust is to introduce a question on the basis that it has been used before in another survey ->The operationalisation phase is ignored

  3. Questions on trust in Statistics Finland’s Leisure Survey • Statistics Finland gathered data on trust as part of the Leisure Survey 2002 • Publications: • Liikkanen, M., Hanifi, R., Hannula, U. (eds.) 2006: ‘Individual Choices, Permanency of Cultures. Changes in leisure 1981-2002’ • Iisakka, L (ed.) 2006: ‘Social Capital in Finland – Statistical Review’

  4. Questions on trust in Statistics Finland’s Leisure Survey 1. If I am not careful, other people will take advantage of me 2. In general people can be trusted 3. There are only a few people I can trust completely 4. People like me don’t have any say about what the authorities do

  5. Questions on trust in Statistics Finland’s Leisure Survey • When compared internationally, in Finland trust scores high • However, information produced by question 2 in the Leisure Survey is not comparable with that produced by the original question in the WVS • 58% feel they can trust other people (WVS 2000) • 81% completely agree or agree to some extent with the statement (Leisure Survey 2002) • 40% agree with the statement that if they are not careful, other people will take advantage of them (Leisure Survey 2002)

  6. Social capital and trust • There is still not a consistent definition of social capital • Social capital: • - social networks • - norms of reciprocity • - trust • Trust: • - trust between people based on risk-taking • - confidence inspired by institutions and agreement • Pioneers of research into social capital are Pierre Bourdieu, James Coleman and Robert Putnam

  7. Social capital and trust OECD: Social capital is “networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate co-operation within or among groups”. Trust: one of the basic dimensions of social capital, along with networks and participation Trust is examined from both the generalised (in all people) and the particularised (in certain people and institutions) perspective

  8. Social capital and trust The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS): “Trust refers to confidence in the reliability of a person or a system. It is based on the expectations that people or organisations will act in ways that are expected or promised, and will take into account the interest of others” Generalised trust is the trust in people the respondent feels generally. It is implicit in simple, everyday interactions with others, such as chance encounters with others or exchange situations where the other party is unknown Informal trust is trust in people the respondent knows personally. It may be a relative, a work colleague or someone else. Informal trust is based on an assessment of these people’s reliability and trustworthiness. Institutional trust refers trust in societal institutions, such as government, the police, hospitals and the courts. People believe that these institutions take reasonable decisions in the administration of their duties, and these are linked to the acceptability of their actions. (ABS 2004, 26)

  9. Cognitive interviews • The questions measuring trust in Statistics Finland’s Leisure Survey were tested by means of personal cognitive interviews at its SurveyLaboratory • Cognitive interviews examine the response process, which consists of comprehending, interpreting, memorising and evaluating the question, formulating the answer and giving the final response • 150 people from Helsinki, 18-65 years old were selected from the sample. The interviews were conducted in summer 2009 and they were 19 of them in all

  10. If I am not careful, other people will take advantage of me (generalised trust) • The way the question was understood varied according to what the respondents understood by ‘other people’ • ‘Other people’ for the most part are people who are not in the respondent’s immediate circle • ‘Take advantage of me’ was mainly understood to mean material exploitation • The reactions mostly varied from ‘completely disagree’ to ‘agree to some extent’: respondents who answered the other questions measuring generalised trust confidently were doubtful with this one

  11. If I am not careful, other people will take advantage of me (generalised trust) • The question has been interpreted (Iisakka 2006) as measuring generalised trust according to the ABS model • However, the respondents’ definitions have elements of both informal and generalised trust as per the ABS model and the OECD notions of generalised and particularised trust • -> Wording should be changed • The notion of ‘other people’ should be clarified, in which case it would also clarify the idea of ‘take advantage of’ • The new wordings should be tested for validity

  12. In general people can be trusted (generalised trust) • The respondents thought that ‘people’ in this question meant people very generally • In the context of this question trust meant that things are taken care of in our society the way they are supposed to: • “In Finland you can trust people more than you can abroad that they will do what has been agreed. Everyday business, shopping, general security are all OK.” (Female 33, researcher) • The idea of ‘in general’ in the question made it easier to answer : it allowed for exceptions even if the respondent had a lot of trust • -The respondents’ definitions are therefore virtually consistent with ABS’s notion of generalised trust • -> Question measures what it is supposed to measure

  13. There are only a few people I can trust completely (informal trust) • Several respondents were unsure about what the consept ‘a few people’ in the question meant: generally meant people close to them: family, relatives and friends • Some respondents thought that the idea of ‘complete’ cannot be used in the context of trust: • “What is complete trust, or incomplete trust or partial trust and so on? I think trust is a word that implies that you either trust someone or you don’t.” (Female 57, production manager) • But some respondents were of the opinion that the notion of ‘complete’ trust made it easier to answer the question: • “Well, the phrase complete trust – that’s the most important point. Of course I believe that you can trust everyone more or less, but completely is a rare thing. That is when you have to know that person quite well.” (Male 22, student)

  14. There are only a few people I can trust completely (informal trust) • There were semantic problems with the wording of the question, and these influenced how it was understood and answered. Because the quetion’s semantics are not clear, the respondents interpreted it in several different ways • The question’s wording should be changed in order to avoid leaving it open to various interpretations. The new wording should be tested for validity

  15. People like me don’t have any say about what the authorities do (institutional trust) • Some respondents were unsure about what the consept ‘people like me’ meant. The following meanings were attached: • - ordinary people, individuals (female 41, unemployed) • - working-class people, working people (male 50, unemployed) • - myself (male 36, graphic/interface designer) • Most respondents understood the authorities to be parliament and the government

  16. People like me don’t have any say about what the authorities do (institutional trust) • The notion of ‘say’ was vague, and the respondents understood it in different ways: • elections, voting, freedom of opinion (male 61, on a disability pension) • associations, clubs and organisations as a way for the individual to have their voice heard all the way to the top (female 28, unemployed) • Most respondents thought of trust in democracy or the authorities/government • Some thought of belief in their own opportunities to have a say

  17. People like me don’t have any say about what the authorities do (institutional trust) • The respondents’ definitons reflects the ABS idea of institutional trust, though more narrowly than with the ABS model • With ABS, different institutions were dealt with using specific questions • The trust that respondents have in different institutions can vary significantly

  18. Conclusion - Trust is a multi-faceted notion and difficult to measure - In general it was relatively easy for the respondents to answer the questions that measured trust - However, the respondents’ approaches to the questions sometimes varied enormously - The questions on trust used in Leisure Survey and international studies, such ISSP, did not produce the operational definitions described in the ABS framework - There would seem to be flaws that undermine the validity of the measurement - If the wordings of the questions need changing, the new wordings should always be tested to avoid new misinterpretations