Why National and International Legitimacy Beliefs Are Linked: Social Trust as an Antecedent Factor
Review of International Organizations, 2018
27 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2019
Date Written: December 15, 2018
Recent public opinion research has established an empirical regularity of unusual stability and strength: citizen beliefs in the legitimacy of national and international institutions are highly linked. The dominant interpretation of this link holds that citizens draw on their perceptions of national institutions as a heuristic when forming opinions about international institutions. This article proposes an alternative mechanism, privileging social trust as an antecedent factor contributing to both national and international legitimacy beliefs. Using original survey data on citizen attitudes toward four international institutions in three countries, the article provides evidence for social trust as an antecedent factor, while granting no support for the dominant interpretation. The article suggests three broader implications: social trust has more far-reaching consequences for international cooperation than previously understood; political efforts to affect the legitimacy of international institutions are constrained by individual predispositions; and a comparative approach is central to the study of public attitudes toward international institutions.
Keywords: Legitimacy; Social Trust; International Institution; Confidence; Political Awareness
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