The Emergence of Polarized Trust

47 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014

See all articles by Marc Hetherington

Marc Hetherington

Vanderbilt University

Thomas J. Rudolph

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Date Written: August 21, 2014


Our main argument is that ordinary Americans are increasingly polarized, but not in their policy preferences or their ideology. Decades of research suggest that ordinary Americans do not tend to hold their policy preferences strongly (Converse 1964) and are “innocent of ideology” to borrow Herbert McClosky’s (1964) wonderful turn of phrase. Looking for polarization in Americans’ policy preferences or their ideological predispositions is almost sure not to turn up much (but see Abramowitz 2010 on health care). Rather, our focus is on the effects of a very recent, but different, development in public opinion: the polarization of trust in government. This form of polarization is a central support to the gridlocked politics that contemporary Washington produces. The public did not create polarization in Washington, but it does allow it to persist.

Suggested Citation

Hetherington, Marc and Rudolph, Thomas J., The Emergence of Polarized Trust (August 21, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Marc Hetherington (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University ( email )

Thomas J. Rudolph

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ( email )

702 S. Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics