Experimental Evidence on Political Trust
49 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 1 Sep 2009
Date Written: 2009
The qualities of the people serving in government, governing processes, and the policies that result have been put forth in the literature as possible determinants of political trust (Miller and Borrelli 1991; Ulbig 2002; Erber and Lau 1990; Rahn and Rudolph 2005). Separately, political evaluations of people, process, and policy have been shown to influence political trust, but there is no empirical work that investigates these three variables both specifically and together. This study will examine all three of these components, people, process, and policy, and their influence upon political trust. The goal of this experimental research is to move beyond speculation and test the effect of specific attributes of people, process, and policy on political trust. A randomized experiment was conducted which exposed participants to three different descriptions of a politician, each emphasizing one of six possible elements of people, process, or policy. Findings from the experiment indicate that, of these three, perceptions of policy had the greatest impact on trust. Perceptions of people followed closely behind policy, and the effect of process was the weakest.
Keywords: political trust, experiment
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