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Mount Orégano
Sue Burke
Whom do Spaniards trust? 
31st-Aug-2011 11:57 am

In July, the polling firm Metroscopia asked Spaniards "To what degree do the following institutions or social groups inspire confidence in you, that is, a sense that you can trust them?"

The answer has fueled a lot of commentary, so you might be interested. People were asked to rank the institutions and groups on a scale of 0 (none) to 10 (full confidence).

7.4 scientists
7.4 doctors
6.8 universities
6.8 Public Health, that is, Spain's socialized health system
6.7 police
6.6 Social Security, which provides health, unemployment, disability, and retirement services and pensions
6.6 small and mid-sized businesses
6.5 intellectuals
6.5 Guardia Civil, a military police force that patrols highways, rural areas, borders, coasts, and participates in international peacekeeping operations
6.5 the armed forces
6.2 non-profit groups
6.0 foundations
5.8 radio stations
5.8 Catholic church institutions such as Caritas, which provides humanitarian aid
5.6 the King
5.3 the Supreme Court
5.2 lawyers
5.2 large Spanish businesses
5.2 civil law notaries, who draft and record documents and provide legal advice
4.8 public ombudsman (defensor del pueblo)
4.8 judges
4.8 government workers
4.7 newspapers
4.7 the Catholic Church's social work
4.7 fiscales, somewhat like district attorneys in the US
4.6 courts
4.6 businessmen
4.5 multinational companies
4.3 municipalities
4.2 Parliament
4.1 television
4.0 the Catholic Church
4.0 communidad autonoma governments, somewhat like states in the US
3.7 savings-and-loan banks (cajas de ahorros)
3.5 the Justice Department
3.3 labor unions
3.1 church bishops
3.0 the current government administration under Prime Minister Zapatero
2.9 banks
2.8 political parties
2.6 politicians

— Sue Burke

31st-Aug-2011 12:40 pm (UTC)
What's immediately interesting to me here is the various divisions in trust between things that are related to each other--so, that Catholic humanitarian-aid institutions rate a 5.8, whereas the Church's social work is only a 4.7 and the Church itself is only a 4.0--and church bishops only a 3.1!

I'm also interested in those categories themselves, since they reveal assumptions and biases (and lack of clarity) on the part of the poll creator. What is the distinction, do you suppose, in their minds between non-profit groups, generally, and foundations? And I can understand separating out small and medium-sized businesses from large businesses, and separating out Spanish ones from multinational ones, but then, what does it mean to rate businessmen, in their entirety? (And what does it mean to have trust in an institutional entity, like a business as compared to having trust in the individuals who are the face of the institution?)

It's not that these questions don't have valid answers--I think they do (or at least, they can)--but I think it's interesting to think about what assumptions are going on. One clear characteristic of the poll is that it asks people to rate both institutions and the individuals who comprise the institution, and one result is that individuals tend to rate lower than the institutions (politicians below political parties, bishops below church institutions, businessmen below the various types of business--although they're higher than multinationals, I see. Oh, and there are other exceptions or deviations from this rule: government workers rate more highly than courts, municipalities, Parliament, and the justice department, though presumably workers in those institutions are.... government workers.)
31st-Aug-2011 01:51 pm (UTC)
In Spain, the difference between a non-profit and a foundation is clear. A non-profit means a group like Doctors Without Borders. A foundation -- well, my bank has a foundation to fund worthy projects. Non-profits mobilize volunteers, foundations underwrite things.

As for the difference between individuals and their institutions, that's an accurate reflection of Spanish culture. The individual is a human being first, then the face of their institution. That's why rules here are always a little flexible, because human beings implement them, and that's why it's important to meet someone in person before doing business because it's a person-to-person relationship, not "just business."

I think the poll's assumptions and biases accurately reflect Spanish culture, which operates on a different tangent than US culture. I've lived here for 11 years now, and the more I learn, the more different this country is.
31st-Aug-2011 02:11 pm (UTC)
That's very cool. It's wonderful to really, really live in a place, to really come to know it, the way you have Spain.
31st-Aug-2011 02:12 pm (UTC)
(and probably there's a similar distinction between a non-profit and a foundation here, too--probably that was my ignorance speaking...)
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