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ESRA 2023 Glance Program

All time references are in CEST

Measuring and analyzing trust in institutions

Session Organiser Ms Maud Reveilhac (Lausanne University)
TimeWednesday 19 July, 14:00 - 15:00
Room U6-28

This session raises several core questions related to trust in political institutions and aims to advance our knowledge of how to gauge and evaluate political trust. The session starts by focusing on the definition and key components of political trust. Indeed, despite the vast number of studies on political trust, the notion is still regarded as ambiguous, thus making it difficult to define and investigate. More longitudinal and cross-sectional research is therefore required to examine the validity and robustness of measures of trust, not only in different cultural contexts but also over time. Following that, the session seeks to clarify what the general public expects from and understands about the fundamental elements of political trust. In particular, it looks at how the general public feels about transparency policies, which are put in place in response to a general decline in public confidence in political institutions across the world. Comparative research demonstrates both cross-country and within-country variations that scholars and policymakers should consider in order to increase and maintain higher levels of trust in political institutions. This session further discusses the effects of particular factors on political trust and does so for different subgroups of the population that exhibit significant differences in terms of, among others, social capital, socioeconomic status, societal views and expectations, as well as levels of political interest. The papers presented in this session pay particular attention to the effects of media consumption and experiences of discrimination on trust in political institutions. Overall, the session also emphasizes the effect of contextual factors, such as crisis situations (e.g., the COVID-19 pandemic and economic indicators) and political systems, on citizens’ assessments of policy performance and, consequently, trust in political institutions.

Keywords: trust in institutions, political trust


The importance of news media on citizens’ trust towards authorities: an Austrian case study during the Covid-19 pandemic

Ms Maud Reveilhac (Lausanne University) - Presenting Author
Professor Hajo Boomgaarden (Vienna University)

Previous research argued that media coverage influences public opinion about the perceived importance and knowledge about policy issues (Zaller, 1992; Eveland & Scheufele, 2000; McCombs, 2005; de Vreese & Boomgaarden, 2006; Boomgaarden & Vliegenthart, 2009). Studying relationships between media coverage and public opinion require linking data from (panel- or cross-sectional) surveys to aggregate features of media coverage (e.g., frames or tonality). Linking both data sources is paramount in times of crisis to have a fuller picture of the trends in public attitudes, especially because news content plays an essential role in citizens’ opinion formation in such difficult times.
This study considers whether news coverage of the Austrian government influences dynamics in public trust towards the government in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Austria represents an important study case as levels of public trust have displayed unprecedented drops over the pandemic and because the media landscape has also come under criticisms. More concretely, the proposed study relies on 30 waves of the Austrian Corona Panel survey and are linked to news coverage from March 2020 to June 2022, which represent an exceptional long observation window.
The strength of the effect of the news is discussed in comparison to the effect of contextual explanatory variables (e.g., Covid-19 cases and economic indicators), as well as individual attitudes (e.g., health and economic risk perceptions, health status, political positioning, satisfaction towards democracy workings and governmental outcomes). In addition to multivariate analysis, the proposed study also aims to encourage transparency and replicability by providing a dynamic dashboard including all the variables used for conducting the research and a detailed discussion about the encountered data integration challenges.

Transparency and Trust in Government in Four European Nations

Dr Edward Freeland (Princeton University) - Presenting Author
Ms Marion Mattos (Grenoble School of Political Studies)

Recent research has shown that transparency is a key component of citizens’ trust in government. This study looks more closely at transparency and how it is related to people’s overall trust in government. The purpose is to study perceptions associated with long-terms declines in trust in government in many western nations. For this study, we look at new survey data use based on representative samples from four European countries (Finland, Germany, France, and Hungary) that vary in government transparency and in citizens’ levels of trust toward their national governments. A conjoint analysis is used (1) to evaluate which among a variety of policies for increasing for transparency are considered most beneficial and most effective, and (2) to examine the extent to which those methods deemed most effective are likely to increase trust in government. Data from the survey show that methods deemed most effective for improving transparency and trust vary across countries and also within countries by key demographic characteristics such as age, gender and education.