The Social Transformation of Trust in Government

Dalton, R. J.
The phenomenon of declining political trust among the American public has been widely discussed, with the explanations often focusing on specific historical events or the unique problems of American political institutions. We first demonstrate that public doubts about politicians and government are spreading across almost all advanced industrial democracies. The pervasiveness of this trend suggests that common social forces are affecting these nations, and we examine the social correlates of the decrease in trust. We find the greatest declines are among the better-educated and upper social status. These results suggest that changing citizen expectations, rather than the failure of governments, are prompting the erosion of political support in advanced industrial democracies.

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