TRUST Among OECD Countries

Citizens’ TRUST was measured by a single item indicating the confidence that citizens have in their national government. As explained earlier, to a large extent TRUST indicates an overall evaluation of the government’s performance. The OECD report (2015) refers to data collected by the Gallup World Poll in 2014. This measure is far from perfect, because it is based on a single question. Furthermore, it fails to differentiate between politicians and the bureaucracy or allow the identification of government actions that might cause citizens to trust or distrust their government. There is a clear variance in the trust index between countries as well as at different periods of time. Usually, new or unstable democracies score low on the trust indicator. Nevertheless, Japan and the United States, which are stable democracies, also scored relatively low (17% and 35%, respectively). From 2007 to 2014, on average, confidence in national governments across OECD countries declined from 45.2% to 41.8%. During this period the steepest declines took place in Slovenia (30% decline), Finland (29% decline), Spain (27% decline), and Portugal (22% decline). However, some countries experienced increases in trust levels for the same period, notably Germany (25% increase), Israel (22% increase), and Iceland (22% increase).

Hence, citizens’ trust in their government is relatively low on average with significant changes throughout the years. This finding means that although the indicator is based on a single question, it does seem to reflect the various dimensions related to trust as well as the various influences on it.

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