Chapter 6: Political trust in Europe

The purpose of this chapter is to use data from the European Social Survey 2010 to develop a two-level model for political trust in Europe with explanatory variables at the individual level and country level, and to interpret the findings.

People’s trust in central institutions in a society is important to the state of democracy as well as to the functioning of broader social and economic processes. High levels of political trust signify institutions that function effectively and facilitate social and economic exchange. Trust also reduces the need for control and supervision, which saves money for the government as well as for firms and other actors in the private sector (Listhaug & Ringdal 2008).

Political trust can be explained by a combination of individual, cultural and institutional factors. Trust in political institutions is the result of early-life socialization and interpersonal trust, and a consequence of the performance of the institutions themselves (Mishler & Rose 2001). For a deeper understanding of political trust, see Kenneth Newton’s ESS EduNet module on Social and Political trust.

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