Performance and Trust 

Will Jennings, Pippa Norris and Gerry Stoker

Performance theories provide a common approach to explaining political trust (Norris 2011). These suggest that principals judge agents as trustworthy based on evaluations of their record. An extensive literature has debated these arguments.  Previous empirical studies have often confirmed the link between subjective judgments of policy performance and trust in national governments, although it remains difficult to establish the direction of causality. By contrast, studies analyzing objective  performance indices have reported mixed findings (cf van der Meer & Hakhverdian 2018).

Unfortunately, the literature suffers from several major limitations, in particular studies have not sought to extend performance theories to explain trust in agencies of global governance (eg the United Nations, World Trade Organization, World Health Organization) and regional organizations such as the OASand EU. Most research has also been conducted in liberal democracies, so it is unclear whether findings hold in a wider range of states, especially authoritarian regimes and developing societies. 

To examine these issues, Part I reviews the literature and develops the conceptual framework.    Part II describes the data, drawing on Waves 1-7 of the World Values Survey, with the 2018-19 wave covering over 45 diverse societies.  Part III presents the evidence. Part IV summarizes the findings and implications.

Paper for the 2020 International Studies Association 51st Annual Convention, March 25-28 2020, Honolulu, Hawaii.


Trust but Verify: The Role of Cognitive Skills & the Media Environment  

Pippa Norris, William Jennings and Gerry Stoker  

Abstract: When citizens trust or mistrust government actors, under what circumstances do they make correct or erroneous judgements? Part I sets out our theoretical framework. The study focuses on several factors potentially explaining these errors, including both lack of cognitive capacity at individual-level, derived primarily from education and interest, and also limits in the information environment, measured by macro-level indices of press freedom and mass communications in societies. Part II describes the empirical data and research design. We use new cross-national time-series data from a wide range of more than forty diverse societies in the World Values Surveys/European Values Surveys to explore how far, and under what conditions, subjective perceptions of institutional trust are related to the trustworthiness of national governments, benchmarked by objective indices of policy performance. Part III compares national macro-level data to establish the size of type I and II errors.  Part IV presents the conclusions and considers their implications.

Panel on ‘Voters and Communications in Advanced Democracies’ 10:00 to 11:30 am Thursday August 29, American Political Science Association annual meeting, Washington Hilton, Washington DC.


In praise of scepticism: Trust but verify

Pippa Norris (Harvard and Sydney Universities), William Jennings (University of Southampton), and Gerry Stoker (University of Southampton)
Abstract: Trust is widely valued -- but is healthy skepticism preferable? To understand this issue, Part I of this paper starts by reviewing the previous literature. Part II describes our theoretical and conceptual framework. We outline a new typology of citizens and theorize that skepticism will be closely associated at individual level with cognitive skills and information, derived from formal education, interest, and media use, and at national level by freedom of expression in open societies. Part III summarizes the research design and individual-level data, drawn from first release of the European Values Survey/World Values Survey Wave 7 (EVS/WVS) conducted in 2018-19. The broadest evidence of interpersonal trust and institutional confidence from this dataset currently facilitates comparison of 41 diverse societies included in both surveys.  In addition, trust in global governance can be compared in a smaller subset of 26 countries in the 7th wave WVS.[i]   To classify citizens, we use a four-fold typology based on the levels and consistency of trust judgments.[ii]  The study tests how far cognitive skills and open societies predict the location of citizens in our typology. Part V concludes by summarizing the main findings and the next steps in the broader research agenda.

Paper for the World Association of Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) 72nd Annual Conference Public Opinion and Democracy Toronto, Ontario, Canada from May 19-21, 2019.