Testing a Psychological Model of Political Trust

Testing a Psychological Model of Political Trust

Viktorija Gaina (University of Latvia, Latvia), Girts Dimdins (University of Latvia, Latvia), Ivars Austers (University of Latvia, Latvia), Inese Muzikante (University of Latvia, Latvia) and Veronika Leja (University of Latvia, Latvia)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/IJSEUS.2020070101

Abstract

The article examined the predictors of political trust and distrust in the context of a new democracy. Latvia regained its independence from the Soviet Union 25 years ago, and its political culture differs from traditional Western democracies by high voter volatility, low ideological constraint, and low political trust. The study tested how perceived characteristics of politicians, political parties and institutions, perception of socio-economic factors, and individual characteristics of respondents predicted the reported political trust in political parties and specific politicians. The results show that different considerations used when people think about trust in political parties vs. politicians. When political parties evaluated, the perceived benevolence predicted trust in the political party. When politicians evaluated, the strongest predictor was the perceived integrity. The findings illustrate the complex nature of political trust, showing that the predictors of reported political trust can change depending on the specific political context.
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Literature Review

Political trust plays a central role in research and theory in political science and political psychology (Braithwhite & Levi, 2003). One reason for this interest is that trust (both generalized trust, and political trust) is related to social capital, which, in turn, is associated with a number of desirable political, social, and economic outcomes, such as well-performing democratic institutions, happiness, economic growth, political tolerance and democratic stability (Rothstein & Stolle, 2008). More recently, low political trust—and political distrust—has been associated with the rise of populist political forces and policies in Western democracies (Algan, Papaioannou, Guriev & Passari, 2017; Geurkink, Zaslove, Sluiter & Jacobs, 2019; Van Asche, Dhont & Pettigrew, 2019). Political trust can be defined as “a summary judgment that the [political] system is responsive and will do what is right even in the absence of constant scrutiny” (Miller & Listhaug, 1990, p. 358). There are two aspects of political trust: trust into the system with its institutions and procedures, which can be defined as macro-level, or organizational trust, and trust into the specific people who are part of the system at the given point in time, which can be defined as micro-level, or individual political trust (Blind, 2007; Citrin, 1974).

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