Religious Affiliations and the Trust in Persons and Institutions of Canada

Creating trust in persons and institutions is a central goal of welcoming communities across Canada.  It is particularly relevant in the case of new Christian and non-Christian religious minorities who may experience discrimination and impediments to their religious practices.  A recent report produced by Fernando Mata used a pooled sample of approximately forty-four thousand Canadian adults drawn from Statistics Canada’s General Social Surveys (GSS) of 2003 and 2008 to look at variations in interpersonal and institutional trust among individuals of different religious affiliations. Personal and institutional trust attitudinal items were examined and their constructs were isolated from other social capital constructs.

Levels of personal trust were relatively higher among members of Protestant denominations and Buddhists, and lower among Muslims, Jehovah’s Witness adherents, Catholics, Pentecostals, Sikhs, Hindus, and Jews. Institutional trust levels, on the other hand, were more evenly matched across religious denominations. Though age, education, province of residence, and residence in Canada were strong predictors of trust, multivariate analysis using both individual and place covariates revealed that, for certain groups, the effects of religious affiliation did not disappear after these (other) variables were introduced into the regression equations. Overall, results demonstrated the importance of religion and other socio-demographic variables in understanding processes of social capital formation in religious groups in Canada.