The Primacy of Performance for Regime Support: Evidence from A Global Dataset
37 Pages Posted: 1 May 2020
Date Written: April 7, 2020
Popular support is essential to the long-term survival of all political systems, yet the question of what affects citizens' faith in their political institutions remains debated. We construct a new measure of institutional trust for 130 countries between 1990 and 2017 and use it to evaluate two important theories of regime support: a procedure-based theory that emphasizes the adoption of democratic and rule-based institutions, and a performance-based theory that focuses on governments' effectiveness in delivering concrete and essential public goods. We find strong evidence that performance dominates procedures: Citizens report greater trust in their political systems when the government can achieve rapid economic growth, low unemployment, and domestic stability. However, just having “good” liberal democratic institutions alone does not seem to improve regime support. These findings have important implications for understanding the challenges currently faced by many democracies and the apparent resilience of some non-democracies.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation