Just as the Christmas season and its message of peace and joy on Earth approaches comes an Associated Press-GfK research poll showing the trust Americans have for one another may be at an all-time low.
The poll was conducted in November and found that Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters. Less than one-third expressed a lot of trust in clerks who swipe their credit cards, drivers on the road, or people they meet when traveling.
According to an AP article in Monday’s Times-News, the poll numbers are sharply different than those recorded in 1972, the first time the question of trust was asked by the pollsters. Back then, about half the respondents said they found their fellow Americans trustworthy.
It’s little wonder that trust has eroded. Terrorist attacks, scams, increased drug use, wars and political rancor are just some examples of troubles that take an increasing toll on our psyche and confidence.
Political and social scientists told AP that having “social trust” provides society where it’s easier to compromise or make a deal; where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good; and where trust appears to promote economic growth.
The scientists said distrust, on the other hand, seems to encourage corruption and other societal problems.
While the poll’s findings are hardly upbeat, let’s not give into the temptation of cynicism. There are ample times when we need to be cautious or guarded — and there are just as many occasions when we can practice the civility and kindness our society so sorely needs.