Social and political trust in Istanbul and Moscow: a comparative analysis of individual and neighbourhood effects



Aiming to bring local context into studies of social capital, our study uses samples of 4006 individuals in Istanbul and 3476 in Moscow using a comparable questionnaire. The stratification of each city's neighbourhoods on the basis of socio-economic characteristics provided the basis for the sampling. Using a multilevel modelling procedure, we show both that locality matters (neighbourhood effect proved significant) and that social capital may indeed be constituted in very particular ways in illiberal democracies such as Russia and Turkey. Social and political trust are frequently thought to contribute to social capital – that is, to provide social resources upon which individuals or groups may draw for their political efficacy. Trust in fellow citizens in Istanbul exhibits a positive relationship to associational activities (joining clubs etc.), while in Moscow social trust can be explained predominantly in terms of (lower) socio-economic status. At the same time, important similarities emerged between the two cases. For social trust, in both cities the ‘cosmopolitanization thesis’, which holds that those who associate more widely are also more trusting of fellow citizens, generally applied. Further, in both cities, residents with lower socio-economic status (though in Moscow this is complicated by education) and lower likelihoods of engagement in direct political action were more trustful of parliament. While this is the opposite of what we have been led to expect based on Western democratic polities, it is a reasonable outcome of illiberal democratic governance operating in these two cities.