Existential insecurity and trust during the COVID-19 pandemic: The case of Germany

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  • Jan Delhey
  • Leonie C. Steckermeier
  • Klaus Boehnke
  • Franziska Deutsch
  • Jan Eichhorn
  • Ulrich Kühnen
  • Christian Welzel

In many, but not all situations it is easier to be trusting from a position of security. This paper addresses trust’s relationship with perceived insecurities induced by the coronavirus pandemic. Looking at social trust (trust in strangers) and institutional trust (trust in the government and in the public health-care system), we explore whether individuals’ trust is negatively or positively associated with economic fears and health fears. Using panel data from Germany for 2020, 2021, and 2022 we find in cross-sectional analysis that institutional trust–but not social trust–is strengthened by health fears and weakened by economic fears. Longitudinal analysis shows that changes in health fears–but not in economic fears–increase social and institutional trust. Our results indicate that only health fears are threatening enough to suspend the otherwise tight-knit syndrome of security and trust.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Trust Research
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)140-163
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The data collection and research was part of the project ‘Values in Crisis: A Crisis of Values? Moral Values and Social Orientations under the Imprint of the Corona Pandemic’, funded by Volkswagen Foundation, grant number 99/127. We would like to thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions on earlier versions of this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Peter Ping Li.

    Research areas

  • COVID-19, economic fears, existential insecurity, health fears, social trust, trust in the government, trust in the health-care system
  • Politics