- Publisher: Social Europe and Quality of Government Institute
- Available in: PDF
- Published: 20th April 2020
Interpersonal trust is among the highest in the world in Scandinavia. Since everything in a society functions better if high trust reduces all transaction costs, Scandinavian trustfulness is truly a Nordic gold.
Findings from Swedish studies, from the 1980s up to the present day, suggest however a small recent dip—and some social and political groups betray distinctly lower, and in some cases diminishing, trust. These groups tend to be more vulnerable and socially dependent, as well as politically distant from established society: the unemployed, those with poor health, early retirees and individuals otherwise supported by welfare benefits. Politically, sympathisers with the populist, nationalist Sweden Democrats, as well as citizens without any party preference, tend also to manifest markedly lower interpersonal trust.
Explaining the results, we propose a corruption-trust theory focusing on how people perceive how social institutions function and public officials behave. People draw personal conclusions from the actions they observe—or think they observe—in others.
Bo Rothstein holds the August Röhss chair in political science at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, where he is co-founder and was the head of the Quality of Government (QoG) Institute 2004-15. He served as professor of government and public policy and professorial fellow of Nuffield College at the University of Oxford in 2016 and 2017 and has been a visiting fellow at Cornell, Harvard and Stanford.
Sören Holmberg is senior professor in political science at the University of Gothenburg, with a research focus on quality of government and electoral democracy. He has been guest scholar at Harvard University, the Brookings Institution and the University of Michigan.