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Freitag, M., Bauer, P. C. (2013). Testing for Measurement Equivalence in Surveys. Dimensions of Social Trust across Cultural Contexts. Public Opinion Quarterly 77 (S1): 24-44

Our study evaluates the dimensionality and equivalence of social trust across cultural contexts, using new data from Switzerland and the World Values Survey 2005–2008. Whereas some scholars assert that trust should be regarded as a coherent concept, others claim that trust is better conceived of as a multidimensional concept. In contrast to the conventional dichotomy of the forms of social trust, we identify three distinct forms of trust, namely, particularized, generalized, and identity-based trust. Moreover, we dispute the view that respondents understand the wording of survey questions regarding social trust differently between different cultural contexts, which would imply that comparative research on trust is a pointless endeavor. Applying multiple-group confirmatory factor analysis to the various constructs of social trust, we conclude that one may study relationships among the three forms of trust and other theoretical constructs as well as compare latent means across cultural contexts. Our analyses therefore provide an optimistic outlook for future comparative analyses that investigate forms of social trust across cultural contexts.


Freitag, Markus

Markus Freitag studied political science, economics, and German language and literature at Heidelberg University. After obtaining the degree of Magister Artium in 1995, he joined the University of Bern as a doctoral candidate and scientific assistant and completed his doctoral degree (PhD) in 1999...

Bauer, Paul C.

Paul C. Bauer is PhD student at the Institute of Political Science at the University of Bern and works as an assistant for Prof. Dr. Markus Freitag at the Chair of Political Sociology. His areas of research include trust, trustworthiness, social trust, political trust, public opinion, survey...

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