POLAR working paper presented at the Workshop on Perceptions and Policy Preferences

„Explaining the democratic malaise: Testing perceived responsiveness as a mechanism of the inequality-trust link“ was presented at the Workshop on Perceptions and Policy Preferences in Hamburg on May 7th.

In this paper, Simon Bienstman, Svenja Hense and Markus Gangl ask whether perceptions of responsiveness explain why and how income inequality affects political trust.

They develop a theoretical model in which rising income inequality leads larger segments of citizens to feel that their interests are not taken into account by the political system, which in turn negatively affects their evaluation of the trustworthiness of its core institutions. 

Based on survey data from the American National Election Survey and the European Social Survey, the analyses show that income inequality indeed negatively affects responsiveness perceptions, as well as political trust.

When income inequality is high, people sense like their influence on political decisions dwindles and they more often express the view that governments do not care about what they think.  At the same time, the paper finds that people who perceive of the political system as responsive to their needs are more willing to trust in its core institutions.

A mediation analysis shows that inequality’s negative intermediate effect on perceptions of responsiveness to a large extent accounts for the relationship between income inequality and political trust.

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