Trust and Risk Perception in Western Europe: A Cross-National Study
The relationship between trust and risk perception was investigated, within and across four European countries (Sweden, Spain, United Kingdom, and France). Survey data were collected in 1996; total number of respondents was approximately 1,000 (United Kingdom and Spain), 1,350 (France), and 2,050 (Sweden). Trust was a significant predictor of perceived risk within countries, but the strength of the relationship varied from weak (Spain and France) to moderate (United Kingdom and Sweden). General trust was also a significant source of variation in perceived risk among countries, but much of the variation in perceived risk remained unexplained. Correlations between trust and risk perception also varied depending on the type of risk (i.e., nuclear risks were more influenced by trust) and trust measure (i.e., general trust explained perceived risk better than specific trust). It is concluded that trust may be an element in models explaining risk perception, but it is not as powerful as often argued in the risk perception literature.