If we didn’t already know Americans have changed quite a bit over the last 40 years, we certainly do now. Unfortunately since 1972 Americans have become less trusting of one another. No, this is not a reflection of how we feel about big government or big business. This is a gauge of how Americans feel about their neighbors.
According to a new poll out this week, only one-third of Americans believe that most people can be trusted. Back in 1972 half of Americans gave this same answer.
The poll found that many Americans are suspicious of each other in simple everyday encounters. And only one-third trust clerks who swiped their credit cards, other drivers out on the roads, or even people they meet while traveling.
This finding is worrisome for many different reasons, but mainly that our democracy is founded on the idea of social trust. Without this trust it is nearly impossible to compromise and make deals, or even have people work together when they have different opinions. Trust helps promote economic growth.
According to the findings, in general people tend to get more trusting with age. But since the birth of the baby boomers, each generation is starting adulthood with less trust in their fellow man. It’s hard to point to any one specific event or development that has caused this decline in trust, but it’s clear that many of the changes we have made over the last 40 years have changed who we are as Americans.
Some scientists are worried that we can’t get back to where we were, but some are looking to technology in order to fix this. Many believe that if we start using technology to connect and be more involved, perhaps Americans will be able to find trust in one another, yet again.