How trusting is the Dutch population?

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.

Development of trust in the Dutch population

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”.

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