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Why Trust Really Matters: How Americans' Declining Trust in Government May Be Altering the Ideological Landscape

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Author: Braun, Devin Callison
Advisor: Rapoport, Ronald
Committee Members: Manna, Paul; Stow, Simon, 1970-; Campbell, Donald E. (Donald Edward), 1943-
Issued Date: 5/1/2012
Subjects: Political Trust
Trust in Government
Polarization of Trust
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10288/16569
Description: This paper attempts to update our awareness of consequences that trust in government can have on the American ideological landscape. Collectively, recent influential research by Hetherington (2005), Rudolph and Evans (2005), and Rudolph (2009) has shown that low trust in government makes people less willing to make material and ideological sacrifices when evaluating their support for government programs. This tendency exerts a bottom-up effect on the legislative process, tending to, though not exclusively, drown out liberal policymaking. My research extends the "Polarization of Trust"� argument from Hetherington (2005) and analyzes the trust in government and political ideology variables of the Panel Studies from the American National Election Studies (ANES) since 1978. At several survey points during the last 30 years, Americans' low trust in government has rarely had a statistically significant, appreciable effect in explaining increases in all Americans' political conservatism, although stronger such effects often exist with regard to ideological moderates. Though a discussion of what causes political trust and of whether or not trust in government is wholly desirable is absolutely necessary, it is by and large outside the purview of this material. This paper's findings suggest that the recent political gains from any recent erosion in trust in government have been small and ambiguous, though among moderates have been in favor of conservatives.
Degree: Bachelors of Arts in Government


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