Crisis of Trust: Socio-Economic Determinants of Europeans' Confidence in Government
42 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2017 Last revised: 18 Sep 2017
Date Written: April 17, 2017
Europeans’ confidence in political institutions has dropped precipitously since the onset of the Euro-crisis in 2010. However, the decline in public trust in government varies tremendously across countries and occupational and educational groups. Analyzing more than 600,000 responses from 23 waves of the Eurobarometer conducted from 2004-2015, we find that economic factors explain much of the cross-national and over-time variation. The baseline level of trust is influenced greatly by a person’s position in the labor market: across European countries, citizens with more education and higher levels of skills express more trust in government than those educational and occupational groups that have benefited less from European integration. The acute decline in the level of public trust in the past decade also has strong economic foundations. Residents of debtor countries that have seen unemployment rates skyrocket in recent years are now much less likely to trust national government than those in creditor countries that have fared better during the economic crisis, while the unemployed have lost faith in government to a greater degree than other parts of the population. Cultural, ideational, and political factors remain important for baseline levels of trust, but on their own they cannot explain the acute, asymmetrical decline in citizen trust observed over the last decade.
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