World Values Survey (Canada) Immigrant and native born respondent comparisons

5. Trust

A variety of analysts have consistently demonstrated that high levels of interpersonal trust make a significant contribution to the health of democracies (Almond and Verba, 1963; Putnam, 1993). Trust and norms of reciprocity promote civic engagement while in turn shaping how individuals participate in democratic life. An exploration of the levels of trust that Canadian born, earlier immigrant and recent immigrant respondents provides some insight into how well integrated individuals are into Canadian democracy.

Are immigrants more or less trustful than native born Canadians? The WVS asked all respondents: "Could you tell me for each whether you trust people from this group completely, somewhat, not very much or not at all?" Eight groups are considered: your family, people you know personally, your neighbourhood, people you meet for the first time, Canadian people in general, French Canadians, recent immigrants, and Americans. Results are summarized in Table 5-1 through Table 5-8.

Question: Could you tell me for each whether you trust people from this group completely, somewhat, not very much or not at all your family?

Table 5-1: Trust in your family
  Canadian Born Earlier Immigrants Recent Immigrants
Trust completely 83.8% 86.3% 91.5%
Trust somewhat 14.3% 13.4% 7.8%
Do not trust very much 1.3% 0.3% 0.7%
Do not trust at all 0.6% 0.0% 0.0%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
  (n=1,768) (n=299) (n=566)

N = 2,633
Source: 2006 World Values Survey

Question: Could you tell me for each whether you trust people from this group completely, somewhat, not very much or not at all people you know personally?

Table 5-2: Trust in people you know personally
  Canadian Born Earlier Immigrants Recent Immigrants
Trust completely 48.8% 41.3% 29.9%
Trust somewhat 48.1% 52.3% 63.7%
Do not trust very much 2.3% 5.7% 6.2%
Do not trust at all 0.7% 0.7% 0.2%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
  (n=1,772) (n=298) (n=565)

N = 2,635
Source: 2006 World Values Survey

Question: Could you tell me for each whether you trust people from this group completely, somewhat, not very much or not at all your neighbourhood?

Table 5-3: Trust in your neighbourhood
  Canadian Born Earlier Immigrants Recent Immigrants
Trust completely 23.2% 16.6% 10.4%
Trust somewhat 62.0% 68.9% 67.5%
Do not trust very much 11.7% 13.5% 18.9%
Do not trust at all 3.1% 1.0% 3.2%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
  (n=1,760) (n=289) (n=560)

N = 2,609
Source: 2006 World Values Survey

Question: Could you tell me for each whether you trust people from this group completely, somewhat, not very much or not at all Canadian people in general?

Table 5-4: Trust in Canadian people in general
  Canadian Born Earlier Immigrants Recent Immigrants
Trust completely 6.6% 8.3% 8.6%
Trust somewhat 78.5% 79.9% 75.1%
Do not trust very much 13.0% 10.4% 14.9%
Do not trust at all 1.9% 1.4% 1.4%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
  (n=1,747) (n=288) (n=558)

N = 2,593
Source: 2006 World Values Survey

Question: Could you tell me for each whether you trust people from this group completely, somewhat, not very much or not at all French Canadians?

Table 5-5: Trust in French Canadians
  Canadian Born Earlier Immigrants Recent Immigrants
Trust completely 6.6% 6.2% 5.3%
Trust somewhat 78.1% 79.1% 68.4%
Do not trust very much 12.5% 12.8% 23.7%
Do not trust at all 2.8% 1.9% 2.6%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
  (n=1,254) (n=211) (n=266)

N = 1,731
Source: 2006 World Values Survey

Question: Could you tell me for each whether you trust people from this group completely, somewhat, not very much or not at all recent immigrants?

Table 5-6: Trust in recent immigrants
  Canadian Born Earlier Immigrants Recent Immigrants
Trust completely 2.7% 3.7% 3.7%
Trust somewhat 62.9% 71.1% 62.4%
Do not trust very much 24.6% 20.5% 30.9%
Do not trust at all 9.8% 4.8% 3.0%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
  (n=1,679) (n=273) (n=540)

N = 2,492
Source: 2006 World Values Survey

Question: Could you tell me for each whether you trust people from this group completely, somewhat, not very much or not at all Americans?

Table 5-7: Trust in Americans
  Canadian Born Earlier Immigrants Recent Immigrants
Trust completely 2.7% 4.3% 2.9%
Trust somewhat 61.8% 64.6% 56.2%
Do not trust very much 24.1% 22.9% 30.3%
Do not trust at all 11.4% 8.2% 10.6%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
  (n=1,723) (n=280) (n=521)

N = 2,524
Source: 2006 World Values Survey

Question: Could you tell me for each whether you trust people from this group completely, somewhat, not very much or not at all people you meet for the first time?

Table 5-8: Trust in people you meet for the first time
  Canadian Born Earlier Immigrants Recent Immigrants
Trust completely 1.7% 1.0% 1.3%
Trust somewhat 51.3% 45.8% 32.3%
Do not trust very much 34.4% 39.6% 50.0%
Do not trust at all 12.6% 13.5% 16.4%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
  (n=1,749) (n=288) (n=560)

N = 2,597
Source: 2006 World Values Survey

The data show (Figure 5-1) that there is, in effect, a hierarchy of interpersonal trust. Respondents are the most trustful of their families, and least trustful of people they meet for the first time.

Figure 5-1: Levels of trust

Question: Could you tell me for each whether you trust people from this group completely, somewhat, not very much or not at all?

Figure 5-1: Levels of trust
Text version: Levels of trust
2006 Strongly Agree Canadian Born Earlier Immigrants Recent Immigrants
Family 98.1% 99.7% 99.3%
People
you know
personally
96.9% 93.6% 93.6%
Neighbourhood 85.2% 85.5% 77.9%
Canadians 85.1% 88.2% 83.7%
Recent
Immigrants
65.6% 74.8% 66.1%
Americans 64.5% 68.9% 59.1%
People
you meet
for first time
53.0% 46.8% 33.6%

Notes: Results reported are for those responding "trust completely" or "trust somewhat".

Source: 2006 World Values Survey

Uslaner and Conley (2003) suggest that immigrants tend to engage primarily, or even solely, with their own ethnic communities, a pattern of associational life that leads to "unsocial" capital (Levi, 1996). The WVS evidence provides some initial support for that line of speculation. Among recent immigrants, 75.1 percent trust "completely" or "somewhat" members of their own ethnic groups compared to 66.9 percent who trust "completely" or "somewhat" members of other ethnic groups. The same pattern holds for people they meet for the first time. Recent immigrants are almost 20 percent less likely than Canadian born respondents and 10 percent less likely than earlier immigrants to trust people they know personally "completely" (p<.1). (Table 5-2).

Social capital theory makes a distinction between interpersonal and generalized trust. Interpersonal trust is generated by close, face-to-face contact with others, while generalized trust refers to the trust that individuals have for other abstract groups or society as a whole (Stolle, 1998; Sullivan and Transue, 1999). Generalized trust, in particular, forms the "social lubricant" that promotes broad social interaction and cooperation.

Exactly how these two dimensions of trust are related to each other is a matter of some debate. Granovetter argues that strong interpersonal networks may actually act as a barrier to the creation of "weak ties" (Granovetter, 1973, 1983). These weak ties are crucial to the building of generalized trust and social capital because they enable individuals to interact with those outside their regular social circles. Indeed, it is entirely possible that if the bonds of the interpersonal group are too strong and hierarchical, they may inhibit the formation of generalized trust (Putnam, 2000).

The results of a factor analysis of these items (Table 5-9) indicate that responses to the trust questions do tend to cluster along two dimensions. The first cluster includes orientations towards larger groups including: Canadian people in general, recent immigrants, Americans and people you meet for the first time. The second cluster includes these groups with which respondents have more regular and intimate contacts: Trust in the family, the neighbourhood, and in people who are known personally.

Table 5-9: Factor analysis: the dimensions of trust
  Factor Loading
Family -.046 .711
People you know personally .180 .695
Neighbourhood .272 .706
Canadians .755 .170
Recent immigrants .831 .047
Americans .808 .052
People you meet for the first time .654 .314
Eigenvalue 2.450 1.619
Percentage of variance explained 35.0% 23.1%

Notes: Principle Components Extraction Procedure with Varimax Rotation; Factor analysis conducted using only cases in the main WVS sample

Source: 2006 World Values Survey and 2001 Census
N=1,941

From these two factors, two indices—an interpersonal trust indexFootnote 8 and a generalized trust indexFootnote 9 —are created to allow us to explore variations in patterns of trust among the three groups.

Over 70 percent of all Canadians, both immigrants and Canadian born respondents, exhibit high levels of interpersonal trust (Table 5-10). Over 80 percent of all Canadians have at least medium levelsFootnote 10 of generalized trust (Table 5-11). The data does show that recent immigrants are somewhat less likely to have high levels of interpersonalFootnote 11 trust than earlier immigrants and Canadian born respondents, and the difference is statistically significant (p<.1). For generalized trust, there is no statistically significant difference between the three groups.

Table 5-10: Levels of interpersonal trust
  Canadian Born Earlier Immigrants Recent Immigrants
High (7-9) 79.8% 77.6% 73.5%
Medium (4-6) 19.3% 22.4% 26.1%
Low (0-3) 0.9% 0.0% 0.4%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
(n=1,746) (n=286) (n=559)

Notes: The interpersonal trust index comes from an additive index of responses to three questions: Could you tell me for each whether you trust people from this group completely, somewhat, not very much or not at all? Your family, people you know personally, and your neighbourhood. Responses of “trust completely” = 3. Responses of “do not trust at all” = 0. The resulting values range between 0 and 9. Cronbach’s alpha = .514.

N = 2,591
Source: 2006 World Values Survey

Table 5-11: Levels of generalized trust
  Canadian Born Earlier Immigrants Recent Immigrants
High (9-12) 9.6% 7.3% 7.9%
Medium (4-8) 84.6% 85.8% 86.8%
Low (0-3) 5.8% 6.9% 5.3%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
(n=1,647) (n=260) (n=509)

Notes: The generalized trust index comes from an additive index of responses to four questions: Could you tell me for each whether you trust people from this group completely, somewhat, not very much or not at all? Canadians, recent immigrants, Americans, and people you meet for the first time. Responses of “trust completely” = 3. Responses of “do not trust at all” = 0. The resulting values range between 0 and 12. Cronbach’s alpha = .758.

N = 2,416
Source: 2006 World Values Survey

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