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SPP 374

Author: William Mishler and Richard Rose
Description: Trust, both institutional and interpersonal, is widely hypothesized by cultural theories of democracy as necessary to make new democracies work and to maintain old democracies. On the macro-level, trust is equated with diffuse support and linked to the stability and effective functioning of democratic institutions. On the micro level, trust is hypothesized as a primary influence on citizen involvement in political life and a key component of the social capital that contributes to a civil society. Although such assumptions are commonplace in cultural theories, there are good reasons to question the importance of trust for democracies old and new. Structural equation models and data from the New Russia Barometer are used to test the direct and indirect effects of trust on political involvement and support for democracy in post-Soviet Russia. The results demonstrate that while political trust has significant consequences for democratic ideals and political engagement, they are far smaller and more limited than cultural theory contends. The effects of interpersonal trust are even smaller. Overall, the relationship between trust and political support is largely spurious; it reflects the substantial effects of public assessment of institutional performance on both political trust and support for democracy.

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