A matter of trust

I was reading the latest Eurobarometer on Finland (fi, PDF), as one is wont to do, and the section on citizens' trust for different institutions caught my eye. If the survey can be trusted, 67 percent of Finns trust labour unions, 65 percent trust the Finnish Parliament, 64 percent trust the Finnish government, and 29 trust political parties. The EU averages are 38 percent for labour unions, 30 percent for national governments, 33 percent for national parliaments, and 17 percent for parties. Finns lead the EU in trust in labour unions, the government, and the parliament. The pattern remained the same when Finns were asked about different media. 81 percent trust the radio (versus 63 percent for all member countries), 72 percent trust the television (vs 53%), 58 percent trust the press (vs 44%), and 37 percent trust the Internet (34%). The one institution that doesn't engender more trust in Finland than in the rest of EU is the union itself. 44 percent of Finns trust it when the average is 45 percent.

I'm not sure what explains the findings. There is the possibility that we're just plain more trustworthy than the rest of Europe, of course. Assuming for the sake of argument that the rest of the continent is not populated by a bunch of slithery crooks compared to us honest and upstanding Finns, what alternatives are there? Is the Finnish word for "trust", "luottamus", milder than its Indo-European counterparts? Are we just particularly gullible, which is why we trust our newspapers when they tell us that the government can be trusted? Do we not trust pollsters enough to tell them about our doubts? This sounds like a job for a pop psychologist.

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