The Measurement of Trust in Communication Research: Part 2.

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Date: Mar. 2021
From: Communication Research Trends(Vol. 40, Issue 1)
Publisher: Centre for the Study of Communication and Culture
Document Type: Essay
Length: 15,918 words
Lexile Measure: 1530L

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Introduction to Part 2

When I finished writing the first part of this narrative review in late October of last year, many people in the United States, as well as in other parts of the world, were feeling particularly anxious about the 2020 U.S. Presidential election. I started my essay with a quote from David Brooks of The New York Times reflecting on the epidemic of distrust in this country prior to the election. As I reread those words now and reflect on the aftermath of the election, the word prophetic comes to mind: "... a third of all Americans think violence is sometimes justified to achieve their political ends" (Kelly, 2020 October 9). Unfortunately, the aftermath of the election did little to ease people's anxiety. On the contrary, it further played on people's fears and sense of distrust. Conspiracy theories abounded marked with allegations of election fraud, actions by social media platforms that fueled the fire of de-platformed voices who felt that their freedom of speech had been taken away, continued loss of life due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a national vaccination drive that, combined with a shortage of vaccines, highlighted the continued racial and social inequities in our country and has the potential to emerge as another form of violence against communities of color--the list goes on. And of course, add to all that the events that took place in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, when rioters violently forced their entry into the building, resulting in several deaths, and threatening the safety and stability of the U.S. government. It is in light of those events that the words from David Brooks strike me as particularly prophetic. He suggested that violence justified for political ends came down to an issue of trust: "it grows out of a sense of distrust. People don't trust the institutions. They don't think they're legitimate. They don't trust each other." The United States is a nation deeply divided, more so now than we probably were before the election took place. The rift has spread beyond the political; our faith communities have become further divided, many family members and friends with differing political views have a hard time speaking to each other, if they do so at all, and the question of how we get over the impasse when we don't trust one another enough to even talk to each other seems a timely question.

Between the writing of the first and second part of this essay, I spent a lot of time doing social media research related to COVID-19. Because of this essay, I recently looked up how the words "trust" and "distrust" have been used in social media. On Facebook, the word trust seems to appear more often associated with accounts posting religious content (through faith-based organizations or individuals), while the word distrust has been linked more often to accounts posting political content (either political figures or news media organizations featuring political figures or posting political content). On Twitter, a...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A656312314