Statistics Netherlands recently published a table showing that generalized trust is increasing among the Dutch Population since 2002. It is said that 67% now ‘trusts fellow citizens’.
This trend does not emerge from the data TNS/NIPO collects for the Giving in the Netherlands Panel Survey of the Center on Philanthropy at VU University Amsterdam. To be more precise, agreement with a statement reflecting trust (“In general, most people can be trusted”) on a 1‐5 scale shows little change. But disagreement with a statement reflecting distrust (“You cannot be too careful in dealing with other people”) shows a clear decline. The decline is fairly substantial: in 2002 36.8% of the population disagreed with the statement, but in 2010 only 22.8% disagreed. Counting respondents who show more trust than distrust as ‘trusting’ respondents, the trend is clearly negative.
The data from Statistics Netherlands are based on a somewhat different question, in which
respondents were asked: “Do you think that in general, most people can be trusted or that you cannot be too careful in dealing with other people?” Respondents could provide a mark
running from 0 ‘you cannot be too careful’ to 10 ‘most people can be trusted’. The 67% is the proportion of the population that scores above 6. Ignoring potential differences in sampling frames and response bias, it is clear that “Methodology is Destiny”.