Coups and Social Trust: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Burkina Faso

60 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2024

See all articles by Thomas Brailey

Thomas Brailey

University of Oxford - Department of Politics and International Relations

Robin Harding

University of Oxford

Thomas Isbell

University of Oxford - Department of Politics and International Relations

Date Written: April 21, 2024

Abstract

How do coups affect social trust? Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the prevalence of coups, in particular across West Africa. Although significant attention has been paid to the effects of other forms of political violence and instability on social trust, to date very little research has considered how social trust is affected by coups, which represent a distinctive form of intra-elite conflict. Building on insights from work in philosophy and social psychology, we conceptualise trust as an adaptive response to vulnerability. Coups represent moments of violent competition for power between elites that create uncertainty about the state as a provider of security and essential services. Consequently, we argue that social trust will increase in response to coups, as a means of offsetting this uncertainty and insecurity. We exploit a unique natural experiment in Burkina Faso to identify the causal effect of coups on social trust, using data from a survey that was in the field during September 2022, when Burkina Faso experienced its second coup of that year. This provides robust evidence that coups can increase social trust, and further analysis supports the proposed mechanism that increased social trust following the coup was a response to uncertainty and insecurity. For external validity, analysis of cross-national survey data from the Afrobarometer series suggests that the positive relationship between coup exposure and social trust holds more broadly.

Keywords: Coups, Social Trust, Africa

Suggested Citation

Brailey, Thomas and Harding, Robin and Isbell, Thomas, Coups and Social Trust: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Burkina Faso (April 21, 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4802214 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4802214

Thomas Brailey

University of Oxford - Department of Politics and International Relations ( email )

Manor Road
Oxford, OX1 3UQ
United Kingdom

Robin Harding (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Manor Road
Oxford, OX1 3UQ
United Kingdom

Thomas Isbell

University of Oxford - Department of Politics and International Relations ( email )

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