Generalised Trust and Institutional Trust in Italy

In document Identity Crisis in Italy (Pldal 85-89)

A Geography of “Identity” Trust in Italy

6. Generalised Trust and Institutional Trust in Italy

Based on comparative data from the European Values Study (EVS) and the World Values Survey (WVS), Table 1 compares identity trust measured as the percentage of respondents expressing trust in others6 and in fellow citizens in Italy and western Europe (the so called EU15).7 The data also makes it possible to compare the ratios of generalised trust at the first and last surveys considered (1990 and 2009, respectively), as well as the difference between Italy and the European average.

According to this data, the gap between Italy and the European average with respect to trust in “people in general” was 6.8%. With respect to trust in fellow citizens, the difference was considerably higher (21.5%). This generalised distrust has increased more in Italy than in the other EU15 countries (– 6.7%). Not only are Italians among the five European peoples that trust others the least (generalised trust slightly above 30%), but they are also those with the lowest percentages of trust in their fellow citizens (slightly above 42%, compared with a European average of 64%). Thus, whereas Portugal, France and Luxembourg compensate for low trust in others with an accentuated sense of national identity, Italy even struggles to consider itself a nation, showing an even greater degree of distrust.

Table 1.

Generalised trust (average percentage from 1990 to 2008 and percentage difference between 2008 and 1990) and trust in fellow citizens (average percentage from 1990 to 1999) in Italy

and in the Europe of Fifteen (EU15)

Country Generalised

trust: average % (1990–2008)

Generalised trust: %

difference 2008–1990 Trust in fellow citizens:

average % (1990–1999*)

Portugal 17.1 – 4.5 76.6

Greece 22.5 – 2.4**

France 22.6 4.4 59.0

Luxembourg 27.9 6.3** 65.7

Italy 31.8 – 4.5 42.5

Spain 31.9 0.1 57.8

6 We assume that the survey data captures identity trust. To measure generalised trust as a part of identity trust, we concentrate on answers to the question: “Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted, or that you can’t be too careful in dealing with people?” The question is formulated in such a way that respondents should not normally think of specific persons they know and are therefore not tempted to answer on the basis of a calculation of their trustworthiness. Likewise, institutional trust is studied by asking respondents how much they trust institutions of different kinds (e.g. the parliament, the police, local government). Although certain authors (e.g. Hardin 2002) have pointed out that respondents may answer with persons they know or have heard of in mind (e.g. the local member of parliament, the neighbourhood policemen, a specific local government councillor), we argue that the question focuses on institutions and not on single representatives of institutions in order to elicit prevalently value-based rather than instrumental assessments (Offe 1999).

7 The EU15, i.e. the members of the EU in 2004, comprised the following 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Country Generalised trust: average %

(1990–2008)

Generalised trust: %

difference 2008–1990 Trust in fellow citizens:

average % (1990–1999*)

Belgium 32.2 1.1 51.4

Austria 34.0 5.0 75.5

Germany 35.8 5.9 72.4

Great Britain 36.1 – 3.4 61.2

Ireland 40.8 – 8.5 80.9

The Netherlands 54.5 8.2 56.9

Finland 58.7 2.0 73.9

Denmark 65.9 18.3 81.1

Sweden 67.3 4.6 74.9

Total (EU15 average) 38.6 2.2 64.0

Italy – EU15 average – 6.8 – 6.7 – 21.5

* In 1999, trust in fellow citizens was gathered in only 5/15 EU countries: Austria, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Britain.

** Percentage difference calculated between 2008 and 1999.

Source: The author’s calculations based on data from the European Values Study (EVS) and World Values Survey (WVS) (1990–2009)

The lack of universalist-national identity trust is an indicator of the Italians’ difficulty in promoting solidarity and social co-responsibility. This weakness is also flanked by a lack of trust in democratic institutions. Trust in institutions, albeit based on an assessment of their performance, has a large identity, as distinct from instrumental components.8

Table 2.

Trust in various institutions in the Europe of Fifteen (EU15) – average percentages of trust between 1990 and 2009

Country % trust in the Parliament (1990–2009) % trust in local governments (1990–2009) % trust in the army (1990–2009) % trust in the police (1990–2009) % trust in the judicial system (1990–2009) % trust in the Church* (2008–2009)

Austria 37.1 41.6 37.1 70.4 63.4 35.5

Belgium 41.2 48.3 41.4 59.2 44.7 35.5

Denmark 53.5 57.8 59.5 90.3 81.7 62.8

Finland 41.2 42.7 78.6 87.2 71.2 47.0

France 44.0 52.8 65.3 70.0 49.9 42.5

8 In particular, Offe (1999) argues that when asked to express how much they trust a particular institution, individuals are actually only providing a general opinion on its efficiency.

Country % trust in the Parliament (1990–2009) % trust in local governments (1990–2009) % trust in the army (1990–2009) % trust in the police (1990–2009) % trust in the judicial system (1990–2009) % trust in the Church* (2008–2009)

Germany 32.7 36.3 46.6 66.8 53.2 32.4

Great Britain 34.9 45.4 83.3 72.1 52.9 38.1

Greece 28.3 20.4 70.3 41.8 47.3 54.8

Ireland 44.1 61.3 65.6 81.4 51.1 56.5

Italy 32.9 33.9 59.8 71.5 37.7 65.6

Luxembourg 64.9 64.3 55.1 72.9 64.5 40.9

The Netherlands 45.9 38.4 41.9 66.3 52.1 35.7

Portugal 42.9 46.4 67.2 64.3 44.7 74.9

Spain 45.0 40.7 46.4 59.5 46.6 33.0

Sweden 51.4 50.5 47.0 76.5 64.4 40.1

EU15 average 40.2 43.5 57.7 70.8 55.8 45.8

Italy–EU15

difference – 7.3 – 9.6 2.1 2.0 – 18.0 19.8

* For the Church, only EVS and WVS surveys between 2008 and 2009 were considered, so as not to include variations in the average caused by secularisation.

Source: The author’s calculations based on EVS and WVS data

Table 2 shows the level of trust in institutions such as the Parliament, local governments, church, army, police and judicial system in 15 European countries.

This comparative data indicates that trust in institutions in Italy focuses mainly on the Church and institutions concerned with public order, the latter, however, having a very high average. In contrast, trust accorded to the Parliament and the legal and judicial system is still very low (18 points below the average).

Since identity trust in institutions is also closely linked to institutional legitimacy, i.e. to the authority that institutions are able to exert and to the widespread support they generate, identity trust can also be measured empirically through the level of satisfaction with how democracy is functioning.

Germany Spain France Italy UK 0%10%

Figure 1. The percentage of respondents who declared they were (very or fairly) ‘satisfied’ with democracy in Germany, Spain, France, Italy and Great Britain between 1973 and 2012 Source: The author’s calculations based on Eurobarometer data

According to Figure 1, based on Eurobarometer data, Italy showed the lowest satisfaction with democracy in the survey period, far below the other four major European countries.

Although satisfaction with democracy improved in the first decade of the new millennium, since 2011 dissatisfaction percentages have increased to 70% of the respondents.

In document Identity Crisis in Italy (Pldal 85-89)