Are Levels of Trust in Government Associated with Levels of Support for Redistributive Policies in the United Kingdom?
Taylor, Isabel Sarah Ann
Political trust is crucial in a democracy. It determines the relationship between citizens and their government and low levels of trust can undermine the integrity of a political system. However, levels of trust in the British government have decreased over recent decades. While various explanations have been forwarded as the reasons for this decline, it has potentially serious consequences for political institutions and their policy outputs no matter its cause.To investigate if declining levels of trust in the British government have policy implications, I use data from the 2009 British Social Attitudes Survey to construct probit and ordered probit models to determine if there is an association between levels of trust in government and support for government redistribution. This analysis suggests that respondents who are more trustful of government are more likely to support redistributive policies no matter their ideological alignment, partisanship, economic situation or social background. I also investigate if this effect of political trust varies between left- and right-wing voters or between respondents who do and do not receive state benefits. No significant differences were found between these groups.The results of this study suggest that declining trust in the British government threatens its ability to execute a progressive policy agenda that redistributes income across society. Not only does decreasing political trust undermine support for the institution, and individuals, of government but it also limits the scope of its policy outputs. For anyone who is concerned by increasing inequalities and who wishes to initiate progressive programs to tackle these disparities, this is a worrying development. It also means that the negative effects of declining political trust may be concentrated among precisely those who redistributive policies are designed to help: the most needy members of society.
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