Have you ever felt a twinge of mistrust as you handed your credit card to a restaurant server? How about the grocery clerk? No worries. They probably feel the same about you.
A new poll shows that Americans’ trust in each other has been on the decline for about four decades, the Associated Press reports.
A General Social Survey found that only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when first asked the question, the AP reports.
A record high of nearly two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” in dealing with people. And blacks have far less faith in “most people” than whites.
A different poll, by the AP-GfK and conducted last month, found that Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters, the AP says. Less than one-third expressed a lot of trust in clerks who swipe their credit cards, drivers on the road or people they meet when traveling.
Why all of the mistrust? Well, Americans are isolated, the AP says, citing Bowling Alone author Robert Putnam’s nearly two decades of studying the United States’ declining “social capital,” including trust.
Putnam argues that Americans have cast aside group activities to stay home and watch TV, the AP says. He says, “less socializing and fewer community meetings make people less trustful than the ‘long civic generation’ that came of age during the Depression and World War II,” the AP reports.
But University of Maryland professor Eric Uslaner, who studies politics and trust, blames economic inequality.
African Americans have steadily expressed far less faith in “most people” than whites. Racism, discrimination and a high rate of poverty destroy trust, the AP says.