Political Science Trust in Latin American Governing Institutions
Ryan E. Carlin, Juan S. Gómez Cruces
  • LAST MODIFIED: 12 January 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0347


The end of dictatorships, civil wars, and exclusive party systems by the close of the 20th century was a genuine cause for optimism about democracy in Latin America. Once the euphoria surrounding transitions subsided, the cold realities of transitioning to open market economies thrust the region into a crisis of representation. That is, Latin America’s parties, elected officials, and voters struggled mightily to achieve the democratic ideals of representation, accountability, effective citizenship rights, and rule of law (inter alia, Frances Hagopian’s “After Regime Change: Authoritarian Legacies, Political Representation and the Democratic Future of South America”; Jorge Domínguez’s “Latin America’s Crisis of Representation”; Kenneth M. Roberts’s “Party-Society Linkages and Democratic Representation in Latin America”; Scott Mainwaring’s “The Crisis of Representation in the Andes”). In many Latin American countries, a general malaise set in that bubbled over (again) with protests in 2019. COVID-19’s global pandemic placed a temporary lid on this simmering situation but likely exacerbated the region’s crisis of representation. Viewed as a barometer for democratic viability, political trust has become a lynchpin among institutional, behavioral, and cultural theories of democratization. Though “political trust” could refer to myriad institutions, we conceptually circumscribe it to governments, legislatures, political parties, local government, the judiciary, the police, the military, and the civil service / bureaucracy. We acknowledge that a research tradition built on David Easton’s conception of political system support (A Systems Analysis of Political Life, 1965; “A Re-assessment of the Concept of Political Support,” 1975) views presidential approval and satisfaction with democracy as conceptually kindred to political trust. We nevertheless distinguish these concepts because satisfaction with democracy remains in conceptual and empirical limbo after decades of debate. Moreover, early-21st-century work from the Executive Approval Project and others diverges theoretically from political trust by considering characteristics (e.g., gender, ideology) and actions (e.g., scandals, executive decrees) of a single person, the president, as opposed to institutions more broadly. We also acknowledge the tradition of Gabriel A. Almond and Sidney Verba’s The Civic Culture (1963), which analyzes interpersonal trust alongside political trust. Research on interpersonal trust in the region has, unfortunately, lagged behind research on political trust and, if anything, has hewn more closely to the multidisciplinary work on prosociality than the culturalist tradition. In sum, interpersonal trust, presidential approval, and support for and satisfaction with democracy arise in the works cited in this article. But we view them as conceptually distinct from political trust and judge the scholarly advances related to the latter as worthy of separate treatment. Scholars have invested vast resources into measuring political trust, theorizing its drivers, and modeling its implications. This article explores advances on those three fronts. Along the way it highlights major breakthroughs and unresolved questions.

Mapping Political Trust across Space and Time

Our knowledge of political trust in Latin America has been constructed piecemeal. Before scholars could explain it, they needed to measure political trust in the region, typically using survey research methods. How trust levels varied between countries and, later, over time provided grist for the theoretical mill. In some ways the rush to measure outstripped advances in conceptualization of political trust, and the bulk of the conceptual work (and critiques) followed years of measurement.

Descriptive Research

Research institutes (e.g., Chile’s Centro de Estudios Públicos), universities (e.g., Instituto Universitario de Opinión Pública at Universidad Centroamericana in El Salvador), and survey firms (e.g., Brazil’s Ibope) began releasing reports on institutional trust into the public domain very soon after freedom of expression was secured in their respective countries. Academic research on political trust in Latin America exploded with the advent of regional survey projects, such as Latinobarómetro and AmericasBarometer, which began mapping trust in a smattering of political institutions (e.g., legislatures, parties, judiciary, bureaucracy; see discussions in Zechmeister and Lupu 2019 and Carlin 2021). Such projects prompted observers to decipher annual or biennial snapshots of political trust and, eventually, richer time-lapse images. Works in this section are largely descriptive or focused on questions of measurement. But the mappers of institutional trust in Latin America rarely miss an opportunity to supply a theoretical narrative, which they validate through comparison, correlation, or intuition. Some of these largely descriptive works are peer-reviewed, while others are not. Subsequent sections on the causes and correlates of institutional trust are restricted to peer-reviewed studies.

  • Carlin, Ryan E. “Surveys and the Study of Latin American Politics.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics (2021).

    DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.1668Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Political polls have made major methodological and theoretical strides in recent decades, greatly deepening our understanding of political support (including trust), partisanship, and voting behavior. Challenges include adapting surveys to facilitate causal inference, refine mixed-mode and non-probability methods, and improve prediction.

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  • Carlin, Ryan E., Gregory J. Love, Matthew M. Singer, Daniel Zizumbo-Colunga, and Amy Erica Smith. “Political Legitimacy and Democratic Values.” In The Political Culture of Democracy in the Americas, 2012: Towards Equality of Opportunity. Edited by Mitchell A. Seligson, Amy Erica Smith, and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister, 189–216. Nashville: LAPOP, Vanderbilt University, 2012.

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    Across eighteen Latin American and Caribbean countries, the Catholic Church and the army remained the most-trusted institutions, and political parties remained the least trusted. Yet, according to the 2012 AmericasBarometer surveys, trust in political institutions rebounded significantly from low points in 2008.

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  • Hagopian, Frances. “Conclusions: Government Performance, Political Representation, and Public Perceptions of Contemporary Democracy in Latin America.” In The Third Wave of Democratization in Latin America. Edited by Frances Hagopian and Scott Mainwaring, 319–362. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    After reporting aggregate levels of trust in government and trust in political parties by country from Latinobarómetro, the author finds little evidence that Latin American countries with higher levels of interpersonal trust are likely to exhibit higher levels of institutional trust. This chapter motivated much research on the link among democratic attitudes, political trust, and regime-level outcomes.

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  • Lagos, Marta. “Public Opinion in New Democracies: Latin America’s Smiling Mask.” Journal of Democracy 8.3 (1997): 125–138.

    DOI: 10.1353/jod.1997.0042Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Lagos relies on data from the first wave of Latinobarómetro to argue that low levels of interpersonal trust and trust in political institutions are cultural traits shared among Latin Americans. This study energized research on noncultural bases of trust in Latin America.

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  • Lagos, Marta. “How People View Democracy: Between Stability and Crisis in Latin America.” Journal of Democracy 12.1 (2001): 137–145.

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    Aggregate analysis in seventeen Latin American countries in the 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2000 waves of the Latinobarómetro shows that the judiciary, the legislature, and political parties are less trusted than the Catholic Church, the armed forces, or television. Lagos views this pattern, along with a lack of interpersonal trust, as traits of Latin American political culture.

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  • Malone, Mary Fran T. The Rule of Law in Central America. New York: Bloomsbury, 2014.

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    Trust that courts will guarantee a fair trial is stagnant and middling in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua; it has grown in Honduras and Panama. Trust that the justice system will sanction criminals is significantly higher in Panama and Honduras. Trust in the human rights ombudsman ranges from highest in Costa Rica to lowest in Nicaragua. Guatemala’s defunct Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala is more trusted than any judicial or political institution.

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  • Payne, J. Mark, Daniel Zovatto G., Fernando Carrillo Florez, Andres Allamand Zavala. Democracies in Development: Politics and Reforms in Latin America. Washington, DC: Interamerican Development Bank and International IDEA, 2002.

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    Aggregate measures of trust in parties are included in an index of party system institutionalization.

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  • Power, Timothy J., and Jennifer M. Cyr. “Mapping Political Legitimacy in Latin America.” International Social Science Journal 60.196 (2009): 253–272.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2451.2010.01718.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Measures of trust in parties and trust in Congress, aggregated in 2003–2005, form an institutional trust dimension of a broader, multidimensional measure of political legitimacy.

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  • Power, Timothy J., and Giselle D. Jamison. “Political Mistrust in Latin America.” Comparative Sociology 4.1 (2005): 55–80.

    DOI: 10.1163/1569133054621923Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Situating mistrust in politicians within a broader syndrome of low trust in individuals, institutions, and social actors, the authors argue that high levels of mistrust in political institutions (Congress, parties) need not be leading indicators of authoritarian forms of government. Rather they could signal the rise of “critical citizens” who embrace democracy but remain skeptical of existing institutions of representation.

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  • Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo. La democracia en América Latina: Hacia una democracia de ciudadanas y ciudadanos. 2d ed. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Aguilar, Altea, Taurus, Alfaguara, 2004.

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    This landmark study about the nature of democratic citizenship in Latin America links lack of support for democracy and low participation in political and social processes to, among other things, lack of trust in political institutions. Data come from the 2002 Latinobarómetro.

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  • Turner, Frederick C., and John D. Martz. “Institutional Confidence and Democratic Consolidation in Latin America.” Studies in Comparative International Development 32.3 (1997): 65–84.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF02687331Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors report modest levels of institutional confidence for the eight Latin American countries included in the first Latinobarómetro from 1995. High-socioeconomic-status citizens expressed the least confidence in institutions. Turner and Martz argue that political culture plays a role in institutional confidence insofar it determines expected performance expectations.

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  • Zechmeister, Elizabeth J., and Noam Lupu. Pulse of Democracy. Nashville: Latin American Public Opinion Project, 2019.

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    Since 2012, trust has fallen in political parties, national legislatures, the executive, and elections.

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Conceptualizing Trust in Political Institutions

This subsection focuses on works whose contributions are largely toward conceptual debates. We note that the Spanish confianza and the Portuguese confiança are translated to English as “trust” or “confidence.” For our purposes, these terms are interchangeable. Yet, extended conceptualizations of trust in political institutions and how it should be measured are rare in scholarship on Latin America. When studying political trust in Argentina and Mexico, Cleary and Stokes 2006 addresses the consequences of skepticism in political institutions. A frequently neglected concept in this literature is distrust; however, it is addressed in Carlin 2014 by rethinking trust as a truncated concept. The domains of institutional trust—what citizens trust specific institutions to do—are noted in Malone 2014 (cited under Descriptive Research) when studying trust in courts in Central America. And we know little about the criteria Latin Americans use to judge institutions as trustworthy. To expand our knowledge about what Latin Americans consider trustworthy, Cleary and Stokes 2006 and Carlin 2014 offer theoretical approaches and methodological innovations. Altogether, this hinders our ability to interpret responses to the typical survey questions gauging levels of trust. Research that incorporates institutional trust into composite measures of related concepts, also reviewed here, compounds this problem. In our opinion, more conceptual work would greatly benefit theoretical development as to causes and consequences of political trust in the region.

  • Booth, John A., and Mitchell A. Seligson. The Legitimacy Puzzle in Latin America: Political Support and Democracy in Eight Nations. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511818431Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Institutional trust taps “support for regime institutions,” a dimension of “political legitimacy.” Its positive association with the World Bank’s Government Effectiveness indicator stands out amid numerous individual covariates. Across six forms of political participation, support for regime institutions is significantly (positively) related to party campaigning; both high and low trustors are more likely to contact public officials. This landmark study empirically located institutional trust within the broader concept of political legitimacy.

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  • Carlin, Ryan E. “What’s Not to Trust? Rubrics of Political Party Trustworthiness in Chile and Argentina.” Party Politics 20.1 (2014): 63–77.

    DOI: 10.1177/1354068811411025Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Trust in political parties is conceived as citizen judgments of party trustworthiness as agents of representation on three dimensions: integrity, competence, and responsiveness. Q-sorts and focus-group data from in Santiago, Chile, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, reveal three distinct rubrics that citizens use to judge party trustworthiness: (1) integrity and competence, (2) internal politics and competence, and (3) responsiveness and integrity.

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  • Cleary, Matthew R., and Susan C. Stokes. Democracy and the Culture of Skepticism: The Politics of Trust in Argentina and Mexico. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2006.

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    This influential book argues that a culture of skepticism vis-à-vis political institutions—the notion that trust must be sustained by credible threats of punishment—better predicts democratic quality than a culture based on the expectation that politicians are trustworthy. Evidence from Mexican states and Argentine provinces that vary in democratic quality suggests that citizens involved in associational life trust others more, but social capital has no impact on institutional trust. This study influenced how scholars interpret aggregate levels of institutional trust.

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Explaining Political Trust

Given the theoretical importance of political trust, many researchers have proffered explanations of it. These can be organized into four main categories. First are explanations rooted in core aspects of democratic culture such as social capital, democratic support and conceptions, and postmaterialism. The second and most well-populated group of studies links the performance of state institutions in areas such as corruption, crime, and transparency to trust in political institutions. Third is a set of works that proffer political-economy explanations of political trust. Finally, we include a series of investigations that test a various and sundry theories. We note that despite the early-21st-century emphasis in political science on causal identification, the study of political trust in Latin America has relied almost exclusively on observational studies (but see Hawkins, et al. 2017, cited under Institutional Performance and Political Trust). Many avenues for future research in this vein remain open to scholars who might seek to impose some necessary order on the myriad correlates of political trust that this rich literature has produced. Here we order the studies chronologically to give a sense of how theoretical arguments have evolved.

Democratic Culture and Political Trust

Political culture is understood by the authors of Booth and Richard 2015 as “a learned set of attitudes, norms, expectations, and values concerning the political environment that shapes the political behavior of citizens” (p. 6). Democratic culture refers to the subset of those attitudes, norms, and values that relates to democracy and democratic institutions. In the context of new democracies, such as those in Latin America, democratic culture is often hypothesized as necessary for robust political trust. An enduring explanation for the advent and maintenance of democratic institutions is that they square with the political culture of the populace. The authors of Power and Jamison 2005 suggest that mistrust might be a symptom of more-critical citizens, while Catterberg and Moreno 2006 documents a correlation between trust and several variables, including interpersonal trust. Studying Latin American legislative elites, Díaz 2008 observes that democratic stability creates a better sense of institutional trust among them. At the same time, many scholars have noted the plasticity of democratic culture to adapt to changing political and social conditions. De la Vega, et al. 2010 shows how changes in Mexican political culture might explain changes in political trust. Political trust research in this section is motivated by one or the other of these suppositions.

  • Booth, John A., and Patricia Bayer Richard. Latin American Political Culture: Public Opinion and Democracy. Los Angeles: SAGE / CQ Press, 2015.

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    The authors employ the 2012 AmericasBarometer to study aggregate institutional trust in eighteen Latin American countries. Trust in the Catholic Church and trust in the armed forces, on average, are found to outstrip trust in the legislature, the national election agency, the presidency, the judiciary, and political parties in the region.

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  • Catterberg, Gabriela, and Alejandro Moreno. “The Individual Bases of Political Trust: Trends in New and Established Democracies.” International Journal of Public Opinion Research 18.1 (2006): 31–48.

    DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/edh081Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A pioneering study that locates Latin America as the world region with the lowest levels of political trust (in legislatures and civil service). Financial satisfaction, democratic support, a sense of government responsiveness, political interest, income, and interpersonal trust are positively correlated with political trust in the region; education is negatively correlated, while postmaterialist value and corruption permissiveness are uncorrelated.

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  • de la Vega, Alonso González, Ángel Quintanilla, and Mariana Tajonar. “Confianza en las instituciones políticas mexicanas: ¿Capital social, valores culturales o desempeño?” In La confianza en las instituciones: México en perspectiva comparada. Edited by Alejandro Moreno, 63–99. Mexico City: Centro de Estudios Sociales y de Opinión Pública, Ciudad de México, 2010.

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    This chapter offers a basic approach to understand the determinants of institutional trust in Mexico, using data from the World Values Survey. The authors’ empirical analysis suggests variance over time for the determinants of institutional trust in Mexico. In the 1990s, materialistic/postmaterialistic values showed a significant relationship with trust. From 1995 to 2000, interpersonal trust seems to have been the most substantive determinant. By 2005, social capital and interpersonal trust were the most-reliable correlates of institutional trust.

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  • Díaz, Araceli Mateos. “The Meanings of Democracy and Institutional Trust.” In Politicians and Politics in Latin America. Edited by Manuel Alcántara Sáez, 65–85. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2008.

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    Data from the Proyecto Elites Parlamentarias en América Latina (PELA, 1994–2005) suggest that legislators who perceive more democratic instability declare lower levels of institutional trust. Furthermore, those countries in which legislators expressed low institutional trust later experienced political crisis.

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  • Power, Timothy J., and Giselle D. Jamison. “Desconfiança política na América Latina.” Opinão Pública 11.1 (2005): 64–93.

    DOI: 10.1590/S0104-62762005000100003Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Situating political mistrust within a broader culture of low interpersonal trust, low trust in institutions, and other socially relevant actors, the authors argue that high levels of mistrust in Congress and political parties could signal the rise of “critical citizens” who embrace democracy but remain skeptical of existing institutions of representation.

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Institutional Performance and Political Trust

As noted in Espinal, et al. 2006 and Stoyan, et al. 2016, political trust often reflects the performance of political institutions. While this is true almost by definition—why place your trust in an institution that is untrustworthy?—such relationships are worth testing, especially in light of culturalist accounts that view such attitudes as basically fixed. Given the prevalence of major social and political problems in the region, corruption perceptions, fear of crime, and other measuring sticks of institutional performance dot this literature. Specifically addressing the effects of perception of high corruption, Morris and Klesner 2010 finds it linked to low political trust. Crime is another recurrent social problem examined in this literature. Corbacho, et al. 2015, Carreras 2013, Malone 2010, and Córdova 2017 offer interesting studies on how actual crime, perception of crime, and crime victimization affect institutional trust. Such drivers are often pitted against institutional design features and economic determinants, and good examples are provided in Colen 2010; Ribeiro 2011; Hawkins, et al. 2017; and Hiskey and Seligson 2003.

  • Carreras, Miguel. “The Impact of Criminal Violence on Regime Legitimacy in Latin America.” Latin American Research Review 48.3 (2013): 85–107.

    DOI: 10.1353/lar.2013.0040Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Crime victimization and perceptions in ten Latin American countries are associated with low trust in political institutions; criminal violence directly lowers political trust by revealing inefficiencies in state institutions. Furthermore, criminality appears to have an indirect effect on trust in political institutions via an erosion of interpersonal trust.

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  • Colen, Célia Mara Ladeia. “As covariantes da confiança política na América Latina.” Opinião Pública 16.1 (2010): 1–27.

    DOI: 10.1590/S0104-62762010000100001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Translates as “The covariates of political trust in Latin America.” Pitting culturalist against institutionalist explanations of political trust in Latin America, the author finds that a composite-index trust in four institutions (Congress, political parties, public administration, and the judicial system) is more positively associated with evaluations of institutional performance than with cultural factors.

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  • Corbacho, Ana, Julia Philipp, and Mauricio Ruiz-Vega. “Crime and Erosion of Trust: Evidence for Latin America.” World Development 70 (June 2015): 400–415.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2014.04.013Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    To advance our understanding of the relationship between crime and political trust, the authors explore how crime victimization influences trust in formal institutions (the police and the judiciary) and informal institutions (social networks and business networks) in nineteen Latin American countries. They find a substantive negative effect of victimization on trust in the local police.

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  • Córdova, Abby. “La incidencia de las pandillas en los barrios salvadoreños y su efecto en la legitimidad política.” América Latina Hoy 77 (2017): 47–66.

    DOI: 10.14201/alh017774766Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Translates as “The incidence of gangs in Salvadoran neighborhoods and its effect on political legitimacy.” Córdova finds evidence to support the contention that higher levels of gang-related violence vulnerability erode citizens’ trust in the national government, regardless of citizens having suffered violence themselves, using data from seventy-one Salvadoran neighborhoods. Additionally, violence victims trust the government more than do nonvictims only in neighborhoods with lower levels of gang-violence vulnerability.

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  • Espinal, Rosario, Jonathan Hartlyn, and Jana Morgan Kelly. “Performance Still Matters: Explaining Trust in Government in the Dominican Republic.” Comparative Political Studies 39.2 (2006): 200–223.

    DOI: 10.1177/0010414005281933Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Asking what shapes political trust in developing democracies, this Dominican Republic case study finds that whereas government performance bolsters trust in government institutions, democratic values and civic engagement have no reliable impact.

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  • Hawkins, Darren, Lucas C. Brook, Ian M. Hansen, Neal A. Hoopes, and Taylor R. Tidwell. “Do Citizens See Through Transparency? Evidence from Survey Experiments in Peru.” British Journal of Political Science 49.1 (2017): 1–24.

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    The authors test causal linkages between government transparency and system support with survey experiments that primed (1) awareness of government transparency efforts, (2) different sources of information, and (3) comparative well-being. Transparency has no effect on trust in institutions; transparency source cues from USAID raise trust in institutions, while cuing the controller’s office or a nongovernmental organization does not. This is one of the few experimental studies of political trust in Latin America.

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  • Hiskey, Jonathan T., and Mitchell A. Seligson. “Pitfalls of Power to the People: Decentralization, Local Government Performance, and System Support in Bolivia.” Studies in Comparative International Development 37.4 (2003): 64–88.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF02686272Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Taking Bolivia’s voto constructivo de censura (the constructive vote of censure)—a mechanism that allows the municipal town council to remove the mayor in cases of misconduct—as a case study, the authors conclude that such mechanisms that bring citizens closer to local political institutions improve support for the system, including trust in municipal-level political institutions (government, indigenous councils, and oversight committees). However, when citizens assess local governments’ performance as inadequate, they trust in municipal governing institutions less.

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  • Malone, Mary Fran T. “The Verdict Is In: The Impact of Crime on Public Trust in Central American Justice Systems.” Journal of Politics in Latin America 2.3 (2010): 99–128.

    DOI: 10.1177/1866802X1000200304Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Because a reservoir of diffuse support for the justice system in Central America has not had enough time to fill, crime crises in the region should damage diffuse support for the justice system. Malone finds that crime victimization and fear of crime negatively affect diffuse support for (trust in) the judicial system. Specific support for judicial system performance is linked to Malone’s indicators of diffuse support for the justice system.

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  • Morris, Stephen D., and Joseph L. Klesner. “Corruption and Trust: Theoretical Considerations and Evidence from Mexico.” Comparative Political Studies 43.10 (2010): 1258–1285.

    DOI: 10.1177/0010414010369072Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A theoretically rich and methodologically advanced study that disentangles the two-way causality between corruption and trust, distinguishing both between perception of and experiences with corruption, as well as between interpersonal and political trust. While corruption appears not to affect interpersonal trust, citizens who perceive higher levels of corruption express lower levels of institutional trust, and vice versa.

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  • Ribeiro, Ednaldo Aparecido. “Confiança política na América Latina: Evolução recente e determinantes individuais.” Revista de Sociologia e Política 19.39 (2011): 167–182.

    DOI: 10.1590/S0104-44782011000200012Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Translates as “Political trust in Latin America: Recent evolution and individual determinants.” Against the proposition that falling levels of political trust reflect an ever more critical citizenry, Ribeiro argues that low levels of political trust (an index of trust in parliament, political parties, the judicial branch, public administration, and unions) in the region reflect growing disenchantment following the high expectations of democratic transitions.

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  • Stoyan, Alissandra T., Sara Niedzwiecki, Jana Morgan, Jonathan Hartlyn, and Rosario Espinal. “Trust in Government Institutions: The Effects of Performance and Participation in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.” International Political Science Review 37.1 (2016): 18–35.

    DOI: 10.1177/0192512114534703Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Stoyan and colleagues propose that in weak states, trust in government institutions depends on more than economic performance. Rather, such states earn trust to the extent they can deliver basic public services, provide security, and combat corruption. Citizen engagement, in the form of political interest, also helps create institutional trust. Furthermore, religious engagement has an impact for Dominicans but not for Haitians, implying that context matters.

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Institutional Configurations and Political Trust

A major goal of democratic reformers who were tasked with building democracies back stronger was “getting the institutions right.” Research on historical and rational-choice institutionalism had identified various choke points for democratic regimes that ultimately led to their demise. Torcal 2006 argues that cultural and historical roots in Latin American new democracies explain low levels of trust. Latin American institutions seem to be fragile, often under the threat of a coup. Not surprisingly, scholars sought to monitor political trust as a way to test these propositions. Authors such as in Smith 2011, Wences and Güemes 2016, and Khan 2016 focus on the limitations and benefits of incorporating innovations to institutional performance to improve political trust. From a political-systems approach, Ross and Escobar-Lemmon 2011, Levitt 2011, Segovia Arancibia 2008, and Boidi 2009 discuss the extent to which parliamentary systems, majoritarian systems, or number of parties represented in the national congress may affect trust. While women’s political representation is an unfinished task in the region, Zetterberg 2009 finds that gender quotas do not improve trust in representative institutions. This literature suggests that institutions remain a central source of theorizing about political trust.

  • Boidi, María Fernanda. “The Missing Connection: Trust in Legislatures in Latin America.” PhD diss., Vanderbilt University, 2009.

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    Lack of trust in legislative bodies in Latin America is proposed to reflect four determinants: views on parliamentary processes, perception of legislative performance, image of political parties, and the party system itself. When legislatures are perceived as performing their constitutional mandate and when congressional performance is positively evaluated, levels of trust are higher. Boidi also finds that the larger the number of parties, the lower the level of trust in Congress.

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  • Khan, Haroon A. “The Linkage between Political Trust and the Quality of Government: An Analysis.” International Journal of Public Administration 39.9 (2016): 665–675.

    DOI: 10.1080/01900692.2015.1068329Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study assesses the relationship between the quality of government and levels of political trust in developing countries in different regions, including Latin America. To measure political trust, the author relies on a composite index based on confidence levels for the police, the parliament or Congress, courts, government, and the civil service drawing. Results suggest that government quality has a significant positive influence on political trust.

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  • Levitt, Barry S. “Institutional Trust and Congressional Autonomy in Latin America: Expectations, Performance, and Confidence in Peru’s Legislature.” Journal of Politics in Latin America 3.2 (2011): 73–105.

    DOI: 10.1177/1866802X1100300203Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Theorizing an “expectation-perception gap”—a gap between the independence that citizens expect from the legislature vis-à-vis the executive and the legislative independence they perceive—this case study of Peru finds that trust in the legislature improves when it fulfills citizens’ expectations of independence from the executive branch.

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  • Ross, Ashley, and Maria Escobar-Lemmon. “The Price of Personalizing Politics: Political Distrust and Economic Performance in Latin America, 1996–2006.” Electoral Studies 30.3 (2011): 406–416.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.electstud.2010.11.012Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Ross and Escobar-Lemmon posit that the type of electoral rules—“personalizing” versus “partyizing”—as well as economic performance conditions the effects of cultural and institutional variables generally on political trust in Latin America. The authors employ data for eleven Latin American country-years and leverage temporal within-case variation from Colombia and Venezuela. Results are consistent with their expectations for the variable impacts of cultural and institutional variables on political trust under distinct types of electoral rules.

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  • Segovia Arancibia, Carolina. “Political Trust in Latin America.” PhD diss., University of Michigan, 2008.

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    Political trust is higher in developed democracies, and particularly in countries with parliamentary and majoritarian electoral systems. At the individual level, Latin American citizens are more trusting of political institutions when they judge them to be fair and competent.

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  • Smith, Matthew L. “Limitations to Building Institutional Trustworthiness through E-government: A Comparative Study of Two E-services in Chile.” Journal of Information Technology 26.1 (2011): 78–93.

    DOI: 10.1057/jlt.2010.17Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study approximates the effects of public-sector institutions incorporating information and communication technologies (ICTs) on institutional trust. Smith examines two Chilean e-services: the e-tax system and an e-procurement system (ChileCompra). Incorporating ICTs into these public services appears to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency. The author concludes that since discretion, ambiguity, and power asymmetries may appear, the potential for improving trustworthiness through ICTs remains limited.

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  • Torcal, Mariano. “Desafección institucional e historia democrática en las nuevas democracias.” Revista SAAP: Publicación de Ciencia Política de la Sociedad Argentina de Análisis Político 2.3 (2006): 591–634.

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    Institutional disaffection in new democracies, seven of which are in Latin America, is linked to decades of democratic failures from 1930 to 1997. Results for three variables from a work by Scott Mainwaring and Aníbal Pérez-Liñán (2000)—years of liberal and representative democracy, regime changes, and years of uninterrupted democratic rule—vary across consolidated and new democracies. For the latter, Torcal concludes that cultural and historical roots best explain institutional disaffection.

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  • Wences, Isabel, and Cecilia Güemes. “Democracia republicana y confianza en América Latina: La esperanza que no llega, que no alcanza.” Andamios 13.30 (2016): 13–37.

    DOI: 10.29092/uacm.v13i30.1Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors analyze the implications of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and a series of recommendations on open government suggested by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). From a normative perspective, these initiatives should prove valuable to restoring trust by promoting transparency, accountability, and participation. However, the authors warn about the need to make these initiatives effective in transforming the exchanges between citizens and governments.

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  • Zetterberg, Pär. “Do Gender Quotas Foster Women’s Political Engagement? Lessons from Latin America.” Political Research Quarterly 62.4 (2009): 715–730.

    DOI: 10.1177/1065912908322411Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This analysis attempts to understand the effects of gender quotas on women’s political empowerment in Latin America. The author analyzes the role of quotas on the formation of political trust and other behaviors. Relying on data from Latinobarómetro (2005), the article finds that quotas do not increase women’s trust toward politicians and political parties.

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Political Economy and Political Trust

Theorizing from many corners suggests that citizens evaluate their elected leaders and political representatives on the basis of the economy. This includes David Easton’s work on specific political support, of which political trust may be an indicator, as well as the economic-voting paradigm. A commodity boom amid a succession of economic shocks has characterized Latin America’s economic conditions in the first two decades of the 21st century. Thus, the region offers an extraordinary opportunity to expand our understanding of the consequences of economic performance on political trust. Overall, many scholars have proposed that at least some of the ways in which the economy affects politics, and vice versa, run through political trust. Some of these scholars explore the connection between economic performance and trust. Mattes and Moreno 2018, Memoli and Di Pastena 2018, and Katz and Levin 2018 suggest that performance and economic shocks are directly connected to trust. Touching on the so-called resource curse, Ishiyama, et al. 2018 finds that oil-producing countries show higher levels of trust than countries rich in other kind of resources. Zmerli and Castillo 2015 and Córdova and Layton 2016 address the relationship between inequality and political trust. Güemes 2019, on the other hand, suggests that beyond inequality and performance, the underlying mechanism driving distrust is a sense of unequal treatment. The broadest evidence for the connection between political economy and trust is offered in Bargsted, et al. 2017, which assesses regional trends over almost two decades. This literature includes a wide variety of models that can be classified as political economy.

  • Bargsted, Matías, Nicolás M. Somma, and Juan Carlos Castillo. “Political Trust in Latin America.” In Handbook on Political Trust. Edited by Sonja Zmerli and Tom W. G. van deer Meer, 395–417. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2017.

    DOI: 10.4337/9781782545118.00036Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    An excellent review that both assesses the trends of trust in political institutions in Latin America between 1995 and 2011 and analyzes their main sources. Declining political trust during the economic turmoil in the late 1990s was followed by a moderate increase around 2003. The authors unveil links among trust in political institutions, performance evaluations, and political preferences. Furthermore, left-wing governments have a positive impact on political trust, which is even stronger for incumbent supporters.

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  • Córdova, Abby, and Matthew L. Layton. “When Is ‘Delivering the Goods’ Not Good Enough? How Economic Disparities in Latin American Neighborhoods Shape Citizen Trust in Local Government.” World Politics 68.1 (2016): 74–110.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0043887115000441Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors theorize that individuals living in unequal neighborhoods will place greater emphasis on fairness than on strict performance (delivering goods) when it comes to trusting local governments. On the contrary, for those in more-affluent neighborhoods, performance matters more. Results show that inequality and higher incidence of crime within neighborhoods predict lower trust in local government. Thus, inequality might depress the causal mechanism between perceptions of high performance and political trust.

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  • García Sánchez, Miguel. “Cultivos ilícitos y confianza institucional en Colombia.” Política y Gobierno 21.1 (2014): 95–126.

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    Citizens living in municipalities with a higher presence of cocoa crops are theorized to show lower levels of trust in local government and the police. Conversely, citizens in municipalities that have taken governmental actions to eradicate cocoa crops are expected to show higher levels of trust in local government and the police. Statistical models drawing from data for the 2005 Colombia AmericasBarometer from LAPOP align with García Sánchez’s theoretical expectations.

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  • Güemes, Cecilia. “‘Wish You Were Here’ Trust in Public Administration in Latin America.” Revista de Administração Pública 53.6 (2019): 1067–1090.

    DOI: 10.1590/0034-761220180230xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Low levels of trust in the public administration exhibit a homogenous trend over time in Latin America. Güemes avers that the underlying mechanism driving distrust is neither institutional performance nor social cleavages but, rather, a sense of unequal treatment stemming from high social inequality and widespread corruption.

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  • Ishiyama, John, Melissa Martinez, and Melda Ozsut. “Do ‘Resource‐Cursed States’ Have Lower Levels of Social and Institutional Trust? Evidence from Africa and Latin America.” Social Science Quarterly 99.3 (2018): 872–894.

    DOI: 10.1111/ssqu.12474Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In countries with large amounts of natural resources, temptation for corruption is higher, and, thus, citizens should exhibit lower levels of social and institutional trust. Analyses of twenty sub-Saharan countries and twenty-two Latin America countries support this contention. However, and surprisingly, individuals living in oil-producing regions both in Nigeria and Mexico show higher levels of social and institutional trust.

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  • Katz, Gabriel, and Ines Levin. “Varieties of Political Support in Emerging Democracies: A Cross-National Analysis.” Social Science Research 70 (February 2018): 55–70.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2017.11.002Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Katz and Levin propose a two-dimensional typology of four types of citizens: satisfied democrats, dissatisfied democrats, antisystem, and alienated. The authors measure specific support for several institutions, using trust in the government, the president, the legislature, political parties, the judiciary, and the military; they gauge diffuse support with preference for and satisfaction with democracy. Negative economic shocks reduce both dimensions of support, but diffuse support recovers quickly as the economy recovers.

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  • Mattes, Robert, and Alejandro Moreno. “Social and Political Trust in Developing Countries: Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.” In Oxford Handbook of Social and Political Trust. Edited by Eric M. Uslaner, 357–382. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

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    This chapter assesses the levels of social and institutional trust in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. On average, Latin Americans express lower levels of trust than sub-Saharan Africans. For both regions, political and economic performance emerges as a more credible explanation for institutional trust than does culture.

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  • Memoli, Vincenzo, and Maria Pina Di Pastena. “Between Perception and Reality: The Economy and Trust in Latin American Political Institutions.” Italian Political Science Review / Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica 49.3 (2018): 229–244.

    DOI: 10.1017/ipo.2018.19Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors analyze data from Latinobarómetro for eighteen Latin American countries, and perceptions of personal (egotropic) and national (sociotropic) economy positively correlate with political trust (an index of national congress/parliament, the judiciary system, the police, and political parties). Furthermore, when sociotropic economic assessments align with real macroeconomic outputs, the positive effect on political trust is even greater and, moreover, wipes out the effects of egocentric assessments.

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  • Zmerli, Sonja, and Juan Carlos Castillo. “Income Inequality, Distributive Fairness and Political Trust in Latin America.” Social Science Research 52 (July 2015): 179–192.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2015.02.003Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Objective indicators of inequality (Gini coefficients) as well as individuals’ perceptions of inequality (distributive fairness) are negatively related to political trust. Counterintuitively, higher levels of inequality appear to attenuate the effect of distributive unfairness on trust.

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Other Explanations of Political Trust

Research on political trust has extended well beyond culture, institutions, and the economy. Whereas these camps are quite common in political science, political trust is of interest to a range of fields and, thus, is studied from a range of theoretical frameworks. Works in this section reflect that analytic diversity. On display are theories rooted in public administration, psychology, and media, to name a few. From a psychological standpoint, Rivera Varela, et al. 2015 analyzes the effects of negative emotions such as anxiety and fear on trust. Also in the psychological vein, Sanhueza Petrarca 2020 finds that lowering the voting age bolsters trust among the newly enfranchised. Given the increased adoption of new technologies in the region, scholars such as the authors of Lemos 2015; Lu, et al. 2019; and Lupu, et al. 2020 explore the effects of traditional media and social media platforms’ consumption on political trust. Finally, this miscellaneous section includes an article by Barry Levitt (Levitt 2015) exploring the link between discrimination and distrust.

  • Lemos, Carla Pires Tavares. “Confiança institucional e mídia no Brasil: Um estudo longitudinal (2001–2015).” MA thesis, Universidade Federal de Pelotas, 2015.

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    Translates as “Institutional trust and media in Brazil: A longitudinal study (2001–2015).” Higher levels of media consumption (from television, newspapers, and radio) drove down trust in political institutions during the deep political crisis in Brazil from 2005 to 2007. Beyond that time frame, the effects are not reliable.

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  • Levitt, Barry S. “Discrimination and the Distrust of Democratic Institutions in Latin America.” Politics, Groups, and Identities 3.3 (2015): 417–437.

    DOI: 10.1080/21565503.2015.1050410Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Empirical analysis from six Latin American countries bears out the expectation that those who perceive themselves to be the victim of discrimination on the basis of physical appearance or the way they talk, in the context of local courts or governmental offices, will report low levels of trust in national governing institutions.

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  • Lu, Jia, Li Qi, and Xin Yu. “Political Trust in the Internet Context: A Comparative Study in 36 Countries.” Government Information Quarterly 36.4 (2019): 101386.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.giq.2019.06.003Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Relying on a multilevel analysis of thirty-six countries, including five in Latin American, the authors find that internet infrastructure is positively associated with higher levels of political trust. Censorship and blockage of information are correlated to greater trust, while violation of users’ rights is correlated to lower trust. Finally, consumption of e-information is positively linked to political trust, but e-decision-making suggests a negative link.

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  • Lupu, Noam, Mariana V. Ramírez Bustamante, and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister. “Social Media Disruption: Messaging Mistrust in Latin America.” Journal of Democracy 31.3 (2020): 160–171.

    DOI: 10.1353/jod.2020.0038Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors compare trust in political institutions for three different groups, on the basis of usage of social media platforms: nonusers, low-frequency users, and high-frequency users. High-frequency users tend to exhibit less trust in political institutions than nonusers and low-frequency users; the difference is even stronger for trust in the executive.

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  • Rivera Varela, Bertha Leticia, Cruz García Lirios, Erle García Estrada, et al. “Contraste de un modelo de desconfianza política.” PSIENCIA: Revista Latinoamericana de Ciencia Psicológica 7.1 (2015): 1–8.

    DOI: 10.5872/psiencia/7.1.21Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors construct a structural-equations model to understand the interrelationships between negative emotions and distrust in authorities tasked with everyday security (judges, judiciary, beat cops, traffic police, et al.), in an intentional sample of 170 respondents from “La Huasteca” region in Mexico. Rivera Varela and colleagues find that distrust is positively associated with fear and anxiety but negatively associated with anger.

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  • Sanhueza Petrarca, Constanza. “Does Voting at a Younger Age Have an Effect on Satisfaction with Democracy and Political Trust? Evidence from Latin America.” In Lowering the Voting Age to 16: Learning from Real Experiences Worldwide. Edited by Jan Eichhorn and Johannes Bergh, 103–120. Palgrave Studies in Young People and Politics. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-32541-1_6Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Sanhueza Petrarca argues that voters enfranchised at younger than eighteen years of age show higher levels of satisfaction with democracy and political trust; she uses evidence from five cases (Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua) in her analysis.

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Consequences of Political Trust

Compared to research on the drivers of political trust, investigation into the consequences of trust in Latin America is less varied and, therefore, less developed. Scholars have focused principally on individual-level behaviors, with special attention given to the diverse forms of political participation that could spring from trust or distrust in political institutions. Political attitudes toward other social phenomena (e.g., reforms, crime, democracy) are also commonly studied. Secondarily, a host of studies model political institutional outcomes as a function of political trust. One clear conclusion emerges from this collection of works: trust in political institutions is not epiphenomenal to political processes. Rather, the discontent and emotions it represents feed back into the political system in a variety of ways—some of which are salutary to democracy and others less so. Simply on the basis of the sheer number of studies, the empirical record on the determinants of political trust in Latin America clearly outpaces our empirical knowledge of its implications.

Political Trust and Political Behavior

If low political trust was taken to signal a crisis of representation in the region, a logical subsequent question was how it would shape citizens’ political behavior. Here behavior is understood to capture both psychological outcomes—evaluations, attitudes, values, norms, and emotions concerning political phenomena—as well as actual physical manifestations that presumably flow from these psychological shifts, such as voting turnout, vote choice, and political participation. In terms of political participation, Salazar Elena and Yedwab 2007, along with Rivera 2019, addresses how low political trust might deprive both electoral participation and participation in political organizations. In the psychological realm, Carlin 2011 proposes five profiles of regime support that when interacting with low trust in institutions shape different forms of political participations. Similarly, according to Panizza and Yáñez 2005, low trust decreases support for market reforms. Addressing the consequences of low trust for the criminal justice system, Dammert and Malone 2006 and Singer, et al. 2020 try to unveil the connections between these variables. Finally, Chasquetti 2017 suggests that low political trust is—at least partially—responsible for low levels of support for democracy.

  • Carlin, Ryan E. “Distrusting Democrats and Political Participation in New Democracies: Lessons from Chile.” Political Research Quarterly 64.3 (2011): 668–687.

    DOI: 10.1177/1065912910370692Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Distrusting democrats in Chile do not behave like their counterparts in established democracies. Carlin uses cluster analysis to identify five profiles of regime support: democrat, delegative, fair-weather, illiberal, and autocrat. Interacting these clusters with trust in political parties indicates that distrusting democrats are more prone to engage in political protests, while distrust drives fair-weather democrats to vote.

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  • Chasquetti, Daniel. “Weak Malaise with Democracy in Uruguay.” In Malaise in Representation in Latin American Countries. Edited by Alfredo Joignant, Mauricio Morales, and Claudio Fuentes, 161–185. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

    DOI: 10.1057/978-1-137-59955-1_7Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Democratic malaise for democracy—conceptualized as democratic disaffection, economic disapproval, and political distrust crossed with support for democracy—tends to be uncorrelated with citizen participation in protests in Uruguay.

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  • Dammert, Lucia, and Mary Fran T. Malone. “Does It Take a Village? Policing Strategies and Fear of Crime in Latin America.” Latin American Politics and Society 48.4 (2006): 27–51.

    DOI: 10.1353/lap.2006.0043Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Modeling fear of crime as a function of strategies of community-based policing and zero-tolerance policies, the authors include trust in police as a plausible alternative explanation. The evidence, which is based on a 2001 International Labor Organization survey, is uneven across Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.

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  • Panizza, Ugo, and Mónica Yáñez. “Why Are Latin Americans So Unhappy about Reforms?” Journal of Applied Economics 8.1 (2005): 1–29.

    DOI: 10.1080/15140326.2005.12040616Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Seeking to explain reduced support for market reforms in the region, the authors find reliable evidence linking it to Latin Americans’ low trust in political parties. But these effects are dwarfed by the effects of economic crises. Two alternative explanations—a leftward ideological shift across the region and more-vocal opponents—are discarded.

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  • Rivera, Sebastián. “Confianza y participación política en América Latina.” Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales 64.235 (2019): 555–583.

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    Political trust is positively associated with electoral participation and willingness to participate in political organizations and community activities; it is negatively associated with protest participation.

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  • Salazar Elena, Rodrigo, and Benjamín Temkin Yedwab. “Abstencionismo, escolaridad y confianza en las instituciones: Las elecciones federales de 2003 en México.” Política y Gobierno 14.1 (2007): 5–42.

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    Translates as “Abstentionism, schooling and trust in institutions: The 2003 federal elections in Mexico.” This study assesses high levels of abstentionism among the most-educated sectors of the population in the 2003 midterm legislative elections in Mexico. The authors propose that education is a driver for turnout insofar as political-institution performance generates trust among the citizenry. Results suggest that poor evaluations of institutional performance lead to lower institutional trust, which ultimately translates into higher levels of abstentionism. Moreover, poor performance more greatly reduced trust among better-educated sectors.

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  • Singer, Alexa J., Cecilia Chouhy, Peter S. Lehmann, Jessica N. Stevens, and Marc Gertz. “Economic Anxieties, Fear of Crime, and Punitive Attitudes in Latin America.” Punishment & Society 22.2 (2020): 181–206.

    DOI: 10.1177/1462474519873659Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Although not the main variables of interest, trust in the criminal justice system and trust in the judicial system correlate negatively with fear of crime. When it comes to support for increased punishment, trust in the criminal justice system is negatively related, while trust in judicial system is positively related.

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Political Trust and Democratic Institutions

What implications does political trust hold for political institutions themselves? Working from basic structural-functional theories of politics, scholars have addressed this question in multiple ways. As the studies in this section show, political-trust levels in the region can influence outcomes as varied as good governance, populism, and women’s representation. For instance, Del Tronco 2013 explains the rise of Latin American populism as a result of increasing institutional distrust. Following similar mechanisms, Barreda and Ruiz Rodríguez 2019 suggests that low trust fuels political instability within the party system and, ultimately, spurs the emergence of new parties. For some scholars, distrust has even led democratic deepening to stagnate, as is the case of Brazil according to Baquero, et al. 2016. Authors such as in Funk, et al. 2019 find that under circumstances of low political trust, political parties might nominate more women than otherwise. As for the impact of political trust on governance in Latin America, Lavena 2013 links it to the rejection of corrupt practice in the region, and Letki 2006 shows that political trust predicts civic morality.

  • Baquero, Marcello, Henrique Carlos de Oliveira de Castro, and Sonia Maria Ranincheski. “(Des) confiança nas instituições e partidos políticos na constituição de uma democracia inercial no Brasil: O caso das eleições de 2014.” Política & Sociedade 15.32 (January–April 2016): 9–38.

    DOI: 10.5007/2175-7984.2016v15n32p9Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Analyzing data from 2007 and 2014, and a case study of the 2014 Brazilian elections, the authors argue that declining institutional trust has delegitimized political parties, thus creating a democracy inertia in Brazil. They conclude that Brazilian political culture does not favor the consolidation of liberal democracy.

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  • Barreda, Mikel, and Leticia María Ruiz Rodríguez. “Confianza partidista y estabilidad electoral en América Latina.” Revista Mexicana de Sociología 81.2 (April–June 2019): 247–273.

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    The authors theorize that lower levels of public trust in political parties creates instability that ultimately leads to the emergence of new political parties. They find that trust in political parties in the existing system is negatively correlated with the emergence of new parties.

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  • Del Tronco, José. “Desconfianza y ‘accountability’: ¿Las causas del populismo en América Latina?” Latin American Research Review 48.2 (2013): 55–78.

    DOI: 10.1353/lar.2013.0026Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Translates as “Distrust and accountability: The causes of populism in Latin America?” Del Tronco theorizes that poor policy performance coupled with the perceived absence of accountability generates political distrust, which, in turn, increases the likelihood of populist leaders to emerge. He argues that the “direct communication channel” between the populist and the people grants citizens a sense of symbolic accountability by reducing principal-agent problems that representative democracy creates.

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  • Funk, Kendall D., Magda Hinojosa, and Jennifer M. Piscopo. “Women to the Rescue: The Gendered Effects of Public Discontent on Legislative Nominations in Latin America.” Party Politics 27.3 (2019): 465–477.

    DOI: 10.1177/1354068819856614Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors theorize that under circumstances of low political trust, political parties are more prone to nominate women, since gender stereotypes suggest they are more trustworthy. Relying on data from over one hundred political parties in eighteen Latin American countries, the authors find support to their theory since distrust in the legislature seems to drive women’s nominations in the region.

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  • Lavena, Cecilia F. “What Determines Permissiveness toward Corruption? A Study of Attitudes in Latin America.” Public Integrity 15.4 (2013): 345–366.

    DOI: 10.2753/PIN1099-9922150402Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Relying on data for six Latin American countries, Lavena reveals that citizens who highly trust political institutions (government, political parties, the police, and civil service) are less permissive of corruption.

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  • Letki, Natalia. “Investigating the Roots of Civic Morality: Trust, Social Capital, and Institutional Performance.” Political Behavior 28.4 (2006): 305–325.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11109-006-9013-6Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    To adjudicate the debate between institutionalist and culturalist approaches to civic morality, Letki tests indicators of institutional trust and institutional configurations against interpersonal trust and social capital. Models include data for thirty-eight countries, among them eight Latin American democracies. Both institutional dimensions—public trust in institutions and objective indicators of institutional quality—reliably predict civic morality, whereas the cultural dimension—proxied by indicators of social capital—does not.

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