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SPP 252

Author: William Mishler, U. of South Carolina & Richard Rose, CSPP
Description: Popular trust for civil and political institutions is vital to democracy. In post-Communist countries of Eastern and Central Europe, however, popular distrust for government and civil society is a predictable legacy of Communist rule. This hypothesis is tested using survey data on popular trust for fifteen civil and political institutions across nine post-Communist societies. Skepticism rather than positive trust or active distrust is the predominant orientation of citizens in all of these countries. Although levels of trust in different institutions vary substantially, for example, between the army and churches or parliament and unions, citizens appear to evaluate institutions along a single dimension. They do so based partly on their evaluations of current institutions in comparison to those of the past in securing individual liberty and treating citizens fairly, partly on their assessments of current and future economic performance, and partly on their degree of social or community embeddedness. Development of civic cultures characterized by popular trust in civil and political institutions hinges on the ability of post-Communist societies to protect gains in individual liberty while promoting economic reforms that work.

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CSPP School of Government & Public Policy U. of Strathclyde Glasgow G1 1XQ Scotland