Interpersonal trust across six Asia-Pacific countries: Testing and extending the 'high trust society' and 'low trust society' theory

Paul R. Ward, Loreen Mamerow, Samantha B. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Trust is regarded as a necessary component for the smooth running of society, although societal and political modernising processes have been linked to an increase in mistrust, potentially signalling social and economic problems. Fukuyama developed the notion of 'high trust' and 'low trust' societies, as a way of understanding trust within different societies. The purpose of this paper is to empirically test and extend Fukuyama's theory utilising data on interpersonal trust in Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Australia and Thailand. This paper focuses on trust in family, neighbours, strangers, foreigners and people with a different religion. Methods: Cross-sectional surveys were undertaken in 2009-10, with an overall sample of 6331. Analyses of differences in overall levels of trust between countries were undertaken using Chi square analyses. Multivariate binomial logistic regression analysis was undertaken to identify socio-demographic predictors of trust in each country. Results: Our data indicate a tripartite trust model: 'high trust' in Australia and Hong Kong; 'medium trust' in Japan and Taiwan; and 'low trust' in South Korea and Thailand. Trust in family and neighbours were very high across all countries, although trust in people with a different religion, trust in strangers and trust in foreigners varied considerably between countries. The regression models found a consistent group of subpopulations with low trust across the countries: people on low incomes, younger people and people with poor self-rated health. The results were conflicting for gender: females had lower trust in Thailand and Hong Kong, although in Australia, males had lower trust in strangers, whereas females had lower trust in foreigners. Conclusion: This paper identifies high, medium and low trust societies, in addition to high and low trusting population subgroups. Our analyses extend the seminal work of Fukuyama, providing both corroboration and refutation for his theory.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere95555
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Interpersonal trust across six Asia-Pacific countries: Testing and extending the 'high trust society' and 'low trust society' theory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this