Summary of the main results

First, the null model indicates that about 25 per cent of the variation in political trust stems from variation between countries. It is obvious that a multilevel model is needed. The full individual level model with age, gender, levels of education, assessment of income, satisfaction with the economy, with the government, with democracy, and social trust explains about 38 per cent of the individual variance and 86 per cent of the country level variance. Thus, most of the differences between the countries can be explained by differences in the composition of the individual level variables. Adding the Human Development Index and the Corruption Perception Index increases the explanation of the country level variation to 95 per cent. The increase is entirely due to the CPI.

The demographics and levels of education have moderate effects on political trust. Trust increases with age, women trust political institutions slightly more than men, and those with university level education show more political trust than people with only primary education. Of the performance variables, satisfaction with the government and satisfaction with democracy are the most important ones in relation to political trust. Social trust is important in that the difference between low and high social trust means a difference of one point in political trust. The CPI is by far the most important country level variable. An increase of one point on the CPI, i.e. one point less corrupt, increases political trust by 0.2 points. That means that the maximal effect of the CPI is 7*0.218 = 1.53.

Table 6.1. Estimates of random parameters and explained variances from three models
Explained variance Null model Full individual model + HDI and CPI
Individual level variance 3.934 2.432 2.432
Between-country variance 1.281 0.177 0.067
Explained individual level variance 0.000 0.382
Explained country level variance 0.000 0.862 0.948
Intraclass correlation ICC 0.246

Table 6.2. Estimates of fixed parameters
Variable names B S.e. t Sig.
Intercept 1.156 1.811 0.639 0.529
agec Age in years, centred 0.002 0.000 4.083 0.000
agec2 Age centred squared 0.000 0.000 8.616 0.000
female Female gender 0.055 0.015 3.715 0.000
Primary education (reference category) 0.000
seced Secondary education 0.019 0.020 0.934 0.351
Terted Tertiary education 0.135 0.021 6.472 0.000
Copeinc Coping well on present income 0.037 0.018 2.078 0.038
stfeco Satisfied with the state of the economy 0.090 0.005 19.434 0.000
stfgov Satisfied with the government 0.326 0.004 73.205 0.000
stfdem Satisfied with democracy 0.183 0.004 44.334 0.000
ppltrst Most people can be trusted 0.105 0.003 30.786 0.000
c_hdihdr_2009 Human Development Index -2.448 2.309 -1.060 0.299
c_ticpi_2008 Corruption Perception Index (high=clean) 0.218 0.056 3.889 0.001