Geographical Dimensions and Correlates of Trust

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Abstract

A sample of 323 residents of New Jersey stratified by neighborhood quality (excellent, good, fair, poor) was gathered to determine if trust in science and technology to protect public health and environment at the societal scale was associated with trust of the local officials, such as the mayor, health officer, developers, mass media, and legislators who are guardians of the local environment. Societal (trust of science and technology) and neighborhood (mayor, health officer) dimensions of trust were found. These societal and neighborhood trust dimensions were weakly correlated. Respondents were divided into four trust-of-authority groups: high societal–high neighborhood, low societal–low neighborhood, high societal–low neighborhood, and low societal–high neighborhood. High societal–high neighborhood trust respondents were older, had lived in the neighborhoods for many years, were not troubled much by neighborhood or societal environmental threats, and had a strong sense of control over their environment. In strong contrast, low societal–low neighborhood trust respondents were relatively young, typically had lived in their present neighborhood for a short time, were troubled by numerous neighborhood and societal environmental threats, did not practice many personal public health practices, and felt little control over their environment.

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