Political Trust, Satisfaction and Voter Turnout

Kimmo Grönlund*, Maija Setälä

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


    This article studies how citizens’ evaluations of the political system and its actors
    affect their propensity to vote. Based on the earlier theoretical and empirical
    research, we analyse the concepts of political trust and satisfaction that are often
    used in survey research. We argue that political trust has to do with the normative
    expectations towards political institutions and actors, whereas satisfaction may be
    regarded as an indicator of attitudes to policy outputs. Furthermore, we differentiate between attitudes to democratic system on the one hand and political
    actors on the other hand, because in representative democracies it should be possible to replace incumbent politicians at elections. We hypothesize that trust in
    parliament and satisfaction with democracy increase turnout, whereas trust in politicians has a smaller impact on turnout, and satisfaction with the incumbent
    government does not affect turnout at all. The empirical evidence is based on the
    first round of the European Social Survey, which was collected simultaneously in 22 countries in 2002–2003. Our analysis confirms that trust in parliament has a
    positive impact on turnout, and also satisfaction with democracy increases it. These effects are especially high when aggregated at a country level and when hard data on turnout are used. At the individual level, in particular trust in parliament increases the likelihood of voting.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)400-422
    Number of pages22
    JournalComparative European Politics
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2007
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • Political trust
    • satisfaction
    • democracy
    • Voter turnout


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