National Identity, Partisan Polarization and Trust
Eric Uslaner is the guest for episode 71 of TrustTalk. He is Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland-College Park, where he has taught since 1975. In 1997-1998 he was Distinguished University Research Fellow at the University of Maryland and in 1981-82 he was a Fulbright Lecturer and Visiting Professor, the Departments of American Studies and Political Science, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel. Professor Uslaner received his B.A. from Brandeis University cum laude with Honors in Politics in 1968 and his M.A. (1970) and Ph.D. (1973) in Political Science from Indiana University. In 2006 he was appointed the first Senior Research Fellow at the Center for American Law and Political Science at the Southwest University of Political Science and Law, Chongqing, China. In the fall of 2010, he was the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Political Science at the School of Politics and International Relations at the Australian National University. He is also an Honorary Professor of Political Science and Government at Aarhus University (Denmark).
Little is known about the relationship between perceived polarization and social trust, including whether that relationship is causal. Social trust (trust in people in general) and political trust (trust in political leaders and institutions) are different kinds of trust with different antecedents. For instance, trust in government is heavily shaped by evaluations of government performance and whether or not one supports the party-in-power (Citrin, 1974), and it is not the same as how much one trusts other people (Newton, 2001). While social and political trust tend to move in tandem at the macro level (Keele, 2007), the empirical evidence on the individual level is inconclusive; if anything, it weighs more heavily for a weak association between the two (Uslaner, 2002; Delhey & Newton, 2003; Kaase, 1999; see Brehm & Rahn, 1997 for an exception).
Eric Uslaner wrote various books on trust:
(…) the basic idea of the moral foundations of trust is that it makes more sense for people to accept people who are different from themselves as part of their same community. An alternative view of trust is that you always have to wait to see how another person reacts. And while that is true on an individual basis, overall, if you maintain a skeptical view of other people, you’re not going to be able to function very well in the world. You have to be able to accept people of all backgrounds who are different from yourself. And that’s the fundamental idea behind my notion of the moral foundations of trust. Generalized trust.”