Measuring Generalized Trust: Two New Approaches

Forthcoming in Sociological Methods & Research

85 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2018 Last revised: 25 Apr 2019

Date Written: April 24, 2019


The Stranger-Face Trust (SFT) questionnaire and the Imaginary Stranger Trust (IST) questionnaire are two new self-report measures of generalized trust that assess trust in real (SFT) and imaginary (IST) strangers across four trust domains. Both were designed to be objective, empirically valid, and easy to administer and score. To assess measurement validity and reliability, SFT and IST along with other common measures of social trust, sociodemographic characteristics, biographical characteristics, and a survey experiment were administered to a large representative sample of Qualtrics web-panel members (N = 2041). Confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation models established the internal consistency, convergent validity, discriminant validity, and criterion validity of SFT and IST. Further tests revealed that SFT and IST correlate with well-established predictors of generalized trust, while other correlates like the age-trust relation were called into question. Taken together, the article shows that SFT and IST are valid and reliable instruments for the measurement of generalized trust, and that common measures of generalized trust appear to be less valid and less reliable. The article ends with a discussion of the implications and directions for future research.

Keywords: generalized trust, measurement validation, confirmatory factor analysis

Suggested Citation

Robbins, Blaine, Measuring Generalized Trust: Two New Approaches (April 24, 2019). Forthcoming in Sociological Methods & Research, Available at SSRN: or

Blaine Robbins (Contact Author)

New York University Abu Dhabi ( email )

PO Box 129188
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates

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