Cover: Social Studies Teachers' Trust in Institutions and Groups

Social Studies Teachers' Trust in Institutions and Groups

Civic Development in the Era of Truth Decay

Published Aug 24, 2020

by Julia H. Kaufman, Laura S. Hamilton, Lynn Hu

Download Free Electronic Document

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 0.7 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

Research Questions

  1. How much trust do social studies teachers place in institutions (e.g., organized religion, news outlets, government)?
  2. How willing are social studies teachers to accept recommendations from various groups (e.g., doctors, religious leaders)?

Teachers' trust in institutions can influence their ability to counter Truth Decay—the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life—in public school classrooms. This Data Note, one in a series, describes how social studies teachers for kindergarten through 12th grade responded to questions about their trust in institutions (from the federal government to news and social media platforms) and their willingness to accept recommendations or information provided by members of particular groups (from scientists and medical doctors to journalists and scholars).

Key Findings

  • Fewer than half of teachers expressed trust in nearly all of the institutions they were asked about (from religion to the federal government), with the exception of secondary teachers' ratings of their trust in national newspapers. But fewer than half of teachers rated their trust in nearly any institution as greater than a 3 on a scale of 0 to 6, where 3 equals "neither distrust nor trust."
  • The most-trusted institutions, according to social studies teachers, were organized religion, national newspapers, and network television, although secondary teachers were generally more likely to indicate trust in a variety of institutions than their elementary counterparts.
  • Majorities of teachers indicated willingness to accept the recommendations of medical doctors, scientists, and scholars, although secondary teachers were more willing to accept recommendations from a variety of groups than were elementary teachers.

Funding for this research was provided by gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit www.rand.org/pubs/permissions.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.