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Exploring the Dimensionality of Trust in Risk Regulation


* Address correspondence to Wouter Poortinga, Centre for Environmental Risk, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK;


This article investigates possible differential levels of trust in government regulation across five different risk contexts and the relationship between a number of concepts that might be thought of as comprising distinctive “dimensions” of trust. It appeared that how people perceive government and its policies toward risk regulation was surprisingly similar for each of the five risk cases. A principal-component analysis showed that the various trust items could best be described by two dimensions: a general trust dimension, which was concerned with a wide range of trust-relevant aspects, such as competence, care, fairness, and openness, and a scepticism component that reflects a sceptical view regarding how risk policies are brought about and enacted. Again, the results were surprisingly similar across the five risk cases, as the same solution was found in each of the different samples. It was also examined whether value similarity has an additional value in predicting trust in risk regulation, compared to the more conventional aspects of trust. Based on the two independent trust factors that were found in this study, a typology of trust is proposed that ranges from full trust to a deep type of distrust. It is argued that for a functioning society it could well be more suitable to have critical but involved citizens in many situations.