Civic Engagement, Interpersonal Trust, and Television Use: An Individual-Level Assessment of Social Capital



The mechanisms underlying the formation and sustenance of social capital on the individual level were explored with a structural model composed of the endogenous variables of civic engagement and interpersonal trust. Using the 1995 DDB Needham life style study, analysis of the model permitted an examination of the strength and direction of the causal relationships driving the “virtuous circle” of participation and trust; the demographic, situational/contextual, orientational, and attitudinal factors that are exogenous to these latent variables; and the linkage between these components of social capital and viewing preferences for specific television genres. The results indicate that (1) the direction of the linkage between civic engagement and interpersonal trust is mainly from participating to trusting; and (2) television viewing plays a conditional role in the production of social capital that is dependent on the use of particular genres.