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Social Divisions of Trust: Scepticism and Democracy in the GM Nation? Debate

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This paper reviews recent developments in research on institutional and expert trust across a number of disciplines to show that a deferential and accepting public stance in relation to officially sanctioned judgements is increasingly being replaced by a more sceptical approach. One outcome is a move towards greater public engagement in issues of high profile new technology. This paper reviews the literature and considers the most substantial public engagement exercise in the UK so far—the GM Nation? debate in 2002–3. It shows that scepticism is widespread but that the relation between scepticism and trust differs across social groups. Among the more privileged scepticism undermines trust. Among working class and less well-educated groups scepticism and trust are correlated positively.

Keywords: GM food; Trust; democracy; public consultation; social class

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Kent, UK

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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