Institutional trust, risk and product safety: a consumer survey

Zoe Adams, Magda Osman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study aims to expand our understanding of institutional trust by examining how consumers express their trust in a UK product safety regulator, the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS). It uses publicly available data from two waves of nationally representative surveys (N = 20,526) conducted by OPSS between November 2020 and August 2021. Questions were selected for analysis if they aligned with the organisation’s definition of a trusted regulator: protecting people and places, and empowering people to make good choices. Of the 211 survey items in Wave 1 and 150 in Wave 2, 42 pairs of questions were selected. Only nine of the 42 analyses were statistically significant, and of those only two were interpretable at a reliable statistical threshold (i.e. medium effect size threshold). The results are valuable in demonstrating how institutional trust may be affected by product safety-related behaviours, experiences, beliefs and attitudes concerning the risks to which consumers are potentially exposed. However, the general lack of reliable findings also highlights methodological challenges in the way official government surveys investigate institutional trust, risk, and general product safety issues on both a linguistic and conceptual level. By examining the survey results and the survey itself, we show how empirical and theoretical insights can inform government efforts to capture important phenomena.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)648-674
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Issue number6
Early online date9 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Institutional trust
  • consumer risk
  • government regulator
  • product safety
  • survey design


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