Qual Quant (2014) 48:939–953
Construction, dimension reduction and uncertainty
analysis of an index of trust in public institutions
Published online: 8 December 2012
© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012
Abstract Research on social capital in general and trust in particular is markedly increased.
The worldwide problem of low and decreasing levels of trust in many public institutions is
greatly debated. This is a very important problem because the trust citizens have in public
institutions may foster democratic practices and facilitate better provision of public services.
Moreover, trust is a central element of social order and survival of any democratic regime:
it affects institutional performance, wellbeing, economic development and crime reduction.
Public institutions should pay very much attention to citizens’ trust in them and in particular
when introducing reforms aiming at improving their functioning. Trust is difﬁcult to be
assessed due to its quite elusive meaning. An index of general trust in public institutions
is proposed within the framework of composite indicators. It is shown how to reduce the
dimension of the index by ﬁnding out the most and least important aspects of it. Uncertainty
analysis is used to test whether dimension reduction results are robust or not with respect
to plausible changes in variable values and variable transformations. An application to data
from the European Social Survey is discussed. The results show the very important role of
the trust in politicians and political parties in explaining the level of general trust in public
Keywords Composite indicator · Monte Carlo methods · Dimension reduction ·
Uncertainty analysis · Trust in public institutions
Mathematics Subject Classiﬁcation 62H99 · 62P25 · 62G09
Recently, research on social capital in general and trust in particular is markedly increased.
Citizens’ trust in one another and in public institutions is positively related to wellbeing.
M. Marozzi (
Dipartimento di Economia e Statistica, Università della Calabria, Rende, CS, Italy