Social Trust report: Utah outperforms nation, region

Today, the Utah Foundation releases the second report in its new Utah Social Capital Series with The Kindness of Strangers: Social Trust in Utah. This installment focuses on social trust; the previous installment focused on civic engagement. The Kindness of Strangers presents data and analysis on four hard indicators: convictions for fraud, penalties for breach of trust, public corruption convictions and violent crime rates. It looks at Utah’s performance on these measures over time, comparing the Beehive State both to the seven other Mountain States and to the nation at large.

Among the findings of the new report:

  • Social trust in the United States has declined dramatically on multiple fronts – including trust in government, trust in institutions, trust in the judgment of fellow citizens, trust of each other and trust in the mass media.
  • Utah compares favorably on the measures of social trust employed in this report. The Beehive State outperforms the nation at large across the board.
  • Fraud convictions in Utah are below the national average and trending downward. Among the Mountain States, only one other state has a lower level of convictions.
  • Utah has the nation’s lowest level of breach-of-trust penalties.
  • When it comes to federal corruption convictions, Utah performed second best in the nation, behind only Wyoming.
  • On violent crime, Utah in 2019 was part of a cluster of three Mountain States (with Wyoming and Idaho) that can boast rates far below the national average. The other five states in the region all had higher than average violent crime.
  • Taken together, these measures suggest that Utah is among the better-performing states nationally in terms of social trust, and the best-performing state overall in the region.

Utah Foundation President Peter Reichard pointed out that the new report focuses less on national attitude surveys and more on the reality of whether Utah itself is “trustworthy.” “Indicators like public corruption and violent crime levels tend to correlate closely with public trust attitudes and social capital levels,” Reichard said. “While the trends nationally look gloomy, our indicators suggest that Utah has a relatively strong level of social trust. That helps make this state a good place to live and do business.”

The Kindness of Strangers: Social Trust in Utah is available on the Utah Foundation website at Special thanks to the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation and the Lawrence T. & Janet T. Dee Foundation for providing project-based support to the Utah Social Capital Series.