The Relationship between Income and Political Trust Is Conditional on Economic Inequality
Posted: 24 Feb 2017 Last revised: 10 Jan 2018
Date Written: February 21, 2017
Do those who feel left behind express more distrust of politics? Or does political trust serve as palliative as the poor become more trusting? We argue the relationship between resources and political trust depends on the degree of economic inequality. On the one hand, the interest-based view of power resource theory suggests a positive relationship further amplified by inequality. System justification theory, on the other hand, suggests a greater need for cognitive dissonance reduction in unequal countries, resulting in rationalization of the deprived situation by expressing more political trust. We test both claims with comprehensive analyses of WVS data from a diverse sample of countries. Results provide clear support of system justification: In unequal countries income is negatively associated with political trust, while in equal countries, the relationship is reverse. This finding has important implications for our understanding of the palliative function of political trust and for successfully combatting inequality.
Keywords: Political Trust, Inequality, Income, System Justification, Public Opinion
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