Downbound spiral? Economic grievances, perceived social protection and political distrust
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Momentous events in Western democracies have brought renewed attention to how various aspects of government-controlled policy outputs and outcomes affect citizens’ trust in politics. Unlike most previous research, this study uses individual-level panel data to test the link between government performance evaluations and political trust. Moreover, it gauges performance in more policy areas than previous research, including key aspects of government-controlled social services as well as a wide range of economic risks. The study finds that evaluations of government performance affect political trust but that the evidence is stronger for evaluations of social protection than for economic risks. Crucially, the analysis suggests that the relationship between performance evaluations and distrust is reciprocal. The relationship may be described as a ‘downbound spiral’ where dissatisfied groups develop distrust, which in turn makes for a more pessimistic interpretation of economic risks and welfare state performance.