New Study by Philipp Simon Eisnecker, Martin Kroh, Simon Kühne "The role of generalized trust in COVID-19 vaccine acceptance"
Immunization by vaccination is one of the most important tools for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet in many countries, immunization campaigns have been hampered by vaccine hesitancy within the population. Building on the idea that vaccination decisions are embedded in the broader societal context, we study the role of generalized trust—the belief that most people can generally be trusted—in vaccine acceptance. Immunization campaigns face an inherent collective action problem: As all individuals benefit collectively from high immunization rates regardless of individual contribution, especially those with a low risk of severe COVID infection have an incentive to decide against the (perceived) costs and risks of vaccination. We argue that generalized trust may help to overcome this problem by encouraging the belief that cooperation for the common good is achievable and that those who cooperate are unlikely to be exploited by others. We further argue that the positive effect of generalized trust on vaccination decisions is weaker among individuals who are at higher risk of severe outcomes from the disease, as the collective action problem is less pronounced in this group. To test our predictions, we used data from the SOEP-CoV survey, which queried a representative probability sample of Germany’s population between January and February 2021 on topics connected to the pandemic. Using multiple logistic regression models, and in line with expectations, we found a positive and robust link between generalized trust and the willingness to accept vaccination as soon as offered. However, overall, our examination of heterogeneous effects does not unequivocally support the idea that the role of generalized trust varies according to individual COVID risk.