WP189: How does exposure to conflict events shape social trust? A spatiotemporal approach

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Working papers
Jacob S. Lewis and Sedef A. Topal

This article examines how proximate exposure to violent conflict events affects levels of social trust. We argue that since exposure to conflict heightens perceptions of threat, individuals who were proximately exposed to conflict events should exhibit lower levels of generalized and out-group social trust than individuals not subject to such exposure. We also argue that individuals subject to exposure to conflict should show higher levels of in-group social trust due to existential concerns that increase their desire to find security within their group. Using geocoded survey data from more than 25,000 respondents in 16 African countries surveyed in 2005 and from the Armed Conflict Location Event Database, we draw spatiotemporal buffers around each respondent. We find that exposure to violent conflict events reduces all forms of social trust across all models. Such findings run counter to arguments suggesting that proximate exposure to violent conflict increases in-group social trust.

Credit: Photo by Pawel Janiak on Unsplash