Aussies wary about trusting their neighbour

Only a third of Australians have high levels of trust in the residents of their neighbourhood, according to a report from NCLS Research and Edith Cowan University,

CLICK HERE"Much the same was true for levels of trust toward people of races different from one's own, toward people having a religion different from one's own, and toward most Australians," says author Dr Philip Hughes.

And it wasn't any more widespread in the workplace. "A little less than half had high levels of trust in the people with whom they worked or studied," Dr Hughes added.

A statement from NCLS Research - with is supported by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and other church groups - says researchers had sampled a random group of 1514 Australians as part of their 2002-03 Well-Being and Security Survey, funded by Anglicare and NCLS Research, in conjunction with Edith Cowan and Deakin universities.

They found that when it came to family members, the picture was much rosier.

"Nearly 90% of people had high levels of trust toward members of their immediate family," Dr Hughes reports.

As for what determines a high level of trust, the report points to how much we find common ground in another.

"Most people are simply more or less trusting of others, and will trust those with whom they feel they have most in common," Dr Hughes concludes. "Nevertheless, particular circumstances, where one works and where one lives, can certainly have an impact on one's level of trust in relation to those specific contexts."

Pointing the finger at who's to blame for a lack of trust in the local street may not actually be your fault.

"Trust is related to trustworthiness," Dr Hughes points out. "In relation to people one knows or has experienced, trust is the evaluation that those people will act in a trustworthy way. Distrust may arise from experiences in which others have proved not to be trustworthy."

On the question of age factors, the report finds that older generations tend to show higher levels of trust, especially in their neighbours, than their younger peers.

"One wonders whether this difference is the result of historical changes reflecting the stronger sense of community among those who grew up before, during or immediately after World War II," Dr Hughes writes. "It may also reflect the fact that older people tend to spend more time in their local neighbourhoods."

Aussies Wary about Trust (NCLS Research 20/10/05)

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NCLS Research

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21 Oct 2005