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How Gender, Education, and Other Factors Affect Trust

Our 2010 Trust survey revealed more than just the most trusted public figures. The results showed how trust is influenced by various factors in Canadians’ lives, from education to wealth, and even gender.

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Factors such as education and wealth can affect how people trust others in their lives.

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1. The Great Male/Female Divide

1. The Great Male/Female Divide

The survey casts light on more than people’s perception of public figures: It tells us about other aspects of ordinary Canadians’ lives-for instance, how men and women see things differently. Some interesting tidbits:

  • Men trust Canada’s self-described “funny-looking old man” less than their wives do: Suzuki was the first choice of 13 percent of men, compared with 19 percent of women.
  • Women are more trusting of virtually every profession in our society than men are; the only exceptions involved car mechanics, car salespeople, CEOs and telemarketers.
  • Women were significantly less likely than men to place their trust in technology. On the other hand, they were more trusting of department stores, the pharmaceutical industry and cable providers.
  • Men were significantly more trusting than women of the liquor industry. (Make of that what you will. We’re not touching it!)
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2. Money Matters

2. Money Matters

Our survey also revealed how Canadians’ financial status affects the way they express generosity. We posed the question “What do you do when you see homeless people asking for money?” Twenty percent of respondents making less than $40,000 a year said they generally believe the homeless really need the money and give what they can. But among survey respondents making $80,000 or more, the figure was just eight percent-even though these people have far more money to give.

“The rich are more inclined to give to charities: They get publicity, status and tax deductions,” says Don Fulgosi, a Toronto-based psychiatrist. People with lower incomes “may feel more inclined to help their fellow sufferers directly.”

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3. Best Friends Forever

3. Best Friends Forever

Perhaps the most interesting finding was the degree to which respondents trusted others in their lives. By far, the most trusted category (93 percent) was friends. That compared with:

  • mother (80 percent);
  • siblings (75 percent);
  • spouse/partner (70 percent);
  • father (70 percent);
  • “your god” (61 percent);
  • dog/cat (58 percent);
  • children (56 percent);
  • neighbours (55 percent);
  • work colleagues (51 percent);
  • in-laws (47 percent);
  • employer (41 percent)
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4. Learning to Trust

4. Learning to Trust

Another fascinating result: Trust went up with education. Sixty-one percent of respondents with a high-school education or less said they trusted their fathers, compared with 76 percent of college graduates. Similarly, 65 percent of respondents with a postgraduate degree said they trusted their work colleagues, compared with just 33 percent of people having a high-school education or less.

“An individual’s level of education and the average levels of education in the surrounding community” are leading predictors of social trust, says John Helliwell of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and The University of British Columbia. “The link between education and trust makes the case for widespread and continuing education for all members of a society.”