Increasingly, the field of political science assesses the dynamic of trust through the lens of national governance. This research paper assesses the degree to which social trust – both vertical (trust held in governing institutions) and horizontal (between citizens) – impacts governance. Using Sweden as a case study, it compares Swedish and American propensities to trust alongside the differences between the political structures of each state. In particular, it considers the differences in approaches to welfare distribution.
This paper finds that vertical trust has a slightly greater impact on horizontal trust than vice versa. Nevertheless, it finds that the two are closely interdependent and that consequently, large increases (or decreases) in one of these directions of trust results in similar changes to the other. To that end, their relationship can be described as existing within upward or downward feedback loops. The findings of this research therefore imply that national governments interested in increasing social trust in either a vertical (toward themselves) or horizontal (among their citizens) direction would do well to not view these variations of trust as existing in silos. Efforts to increase either will have a positive impact on both, and relevant policy focusing on increasing trust should reflect as much.
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