PULLMAN -- A study conducted by the Washington State University indicates that people who are frequent readers of a daily newspaper tend to be more trusting of others than those who read newspapers less frequently.
The effect holds for both residents of small towns and big cities, although researchers found small-town residents are more trusting in general than are city dwellers.
Featured in the latest issue of Mass Communication and Society, the study was conducted by Douglas Hindman, associate professor of communication and Masahiro Yamamoto, a WSU graduate student and assistant professor of humanities at Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire.
The findings underscore the importance of newspapers in their communities. By reinforcing feelings of trust, the researchers say newspapers can help make communities better places to live. When people trust each other, they are more likely to work together to improve their communities.
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The research also indicates not all forms of community participation are equal in terms of fostering social trust.
As might be expected, social trust is associated with participation in youth-related activities such as parent teacher groups or youth organizations. Conversely, participation in activities such as political groups, protests or boycotts was associated with lower levels of social trust.
"When political participation includes conflict, as is often the case given the partisan nature of the U.S. political system, the result is sharpened debates, mobilized supporters, challenged inequities, and social involvement considered crucial to democratic functioning," Hindman and Yamamoto wrote. "It does not, however, appear to enhance social trust. Perhaps social trust is not the ultimate measure of the value of all forms of social participation."
Mass Communication and Society is a scholarly journal focused on publishing articles from a wide variety of perspectives and approaches that advance mass communication theory, especially at the societal or macrosocial level.