When trust matters—a multilevel analysis of the effect of generalized trust on political participation in 25 European democracies

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Abstract

Generalized social trust has been argued to have positive effects for both individuals and society, but despite solid theoretical arguments in favour of different contextual effects, the empirical evidence remains scant. We here examine whether and how the effect of generalized trust on the propensity to become politically active is moderated by the level of generalized trust in society. We inspect two different causal mechanisms: The rainmaker effect, which entails that the effect of generalized trust is weaker at the individual level when there is a high level of generalized trust in society; and the sunmaker effect, which entails that the effect of generalized trust is strengthened by a high level of generalized trust in society. We examine the links for three forms of political participation: voting, institutionalized participation, and non-institutionalized participation. The data come from the fourth round of the European Social Survey from 2008 [European Social Survey. (2008). Data file edition 4.0. Norwegian Social Science Data Services, Norway—Data Archive and distributor of ESS data], and we include 47,489 respondents in 25 democratic countries. The results from a series of multilevel logistic regressions suggest that the effect of generalized trust varies depending on the level of generalized trust in the surrounding community but the causal mechanisms differ for different kinds of political participation.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)178–197
JournalJournal of Civil Society
Volume12
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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