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Spill-Up and Spill-Over of Trust: An Extended Test of Cultural and Institutional Theories of Trust in South Korea


  • Earlier drafts of this article were presented at the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association, San Francisco 2009, and the Korean Sociological Association, Daegu 2008. For helpful comments we thank Robert Braun, Youngjoo Cha, Joon Han, Dong-No Kim, Eun Sil Oh, Patrick Park, Yoosik Youm, and the editor and three anonymous reviewers for Sociological Forum. Research for this study was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the South Korean Government (NRF-2010-330-B00146). Direct correspondence to Paul Y. Chang; e-mail:


In comparison to the heated debate over the origins of trust in political institutions, few studies have empirically examined the linkage between trust in political and nonpolitical institutions at the individual level. In this study, we utilize a two-step methodology to investigate attitudes toward the government in the broader context of attitudes toward related nonpolitical institutions in South Korea. Results from latent class analysis reveal that political trust is an integrated part of a more general set of attitudes toward social and economic institutions. In addition, results from multinomial logistic regression analysis corroborate past studies that found a positive relationship between perceptions of institutional performance and trust in institutions while partially supporting theories advocating the importance of interpersonal trust for institutional trust. This study points to the possibility of interpersonal trust “spilling up” to trust in institutions and the likelihood that trust in one institution “spills over” to trust in other related institutions.

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