A Certain Recipe for Political Trust? A Quantitative and Comparative Analysis into the Macro-Level Determinants of Political Trust in 26 European Democracies

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Political trust can be understood as an unavoidable precondition for the functioning of representative democracy that entails several beneficial side effects. Therefore, questions regarding its origins and determinants are of central importance and relevance for researchers as well as society. However, although it is quite well researched and known what determines political trust at the individual level, research still faces many blind spots when it comes to the determinants of political trust at the macro-level. Thus, the aim of this thesis is to advance our understanding of the macro-level determinants of trust. Starting from previous research, severalhypotheses, including already tested and newly introduced, never tested macro-level predictors of trust, are developed and then tested on their own and simultaneously with the help of multi-level models. For this purpose, the analysis mainly relies on data from the ninth round of the European Social Survey and several other data sources. Hence, 26 different European democracies are chosen as cases. The results of the empirical analysis then indicate that the level of corruption and the electoral system design of a country mainly determine the level of political trust in a country. More specifically, just corruption can explain about 73% of the unexplained variance at the macro-level that is left after including individual level predictors. At the same time, results show that the newly introduced predictors substantive representation, descriptive representation and the social protection expenditure share have a significant effect only in specific situations, e.g., if they are tested on their own. Keywords: political trust, trust in parliament, Europe, multi-level models, corruption, electoral system
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