Political Polarization and Interpersonal Trust in Times of Crisis: Evidence from an Online Survey Experiment

GT 4.11 Diseños experimentales en el análisis del comportamiento y las actitudes políticas

Sergio Martini (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)
Mariano Torcal Loriente (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)
Sesión 2
Día: jueves,19 de septiembre de 2013
Hora: 11:45 a 14:15
Lugar: E10SEM9

Interpersonal trust is an essential ingredient of cooperative relationships, which contributes to solve collective action problems, by reducing transaction costs and allowing the use of informal agreements. In brief, trust is an informal institution, which makes social interactions and exchange possible (e.g; Gambetta 1988; Ostrom & Walker 2003). For this reason, it is a fundamental element of human adaptation and a resource for people to overcome difficulties and crisis situations (Bowles & Gintis 2011).

Much research has accumulated on the consequences of trust, often linking this factor to higher economic growth, institutional development and quality of governance (e.g. Putnam 2000; Zak & Knack 2001), as well as to the development of a civic culture among people and more subjective life satisfaction (e.g. Uslaner 2002; Helliwell & Putnam 2004). 

Despite these positive externalities, literature on why people are more trusting in some contexts than others has not attracted the same attention. Moreover, scholars are still strongly divided on what methodological tools may be more suited to achieve this purpose. Building on a new argument recently emerged (Carlin & Love, forthcoming), in this paper we try to demonstrate the effect of different political cleavages such as partisanship, social class and regional divides in conditioning trust among citizens.

Our expectations are confirmed by presenting results of an online survey-experiment, which embeds a trust-game into a survey questionnaire. The research has been carried out in Spain, a country where the level of polarization of the political system has gradually increased in the last few years (e.g. Sanchez-Cuenca 2009; Balaguer & Sanz 2010; Martínez & Miley 2010).

We are going to observe that citizens bias their trust decisions when politically relevant conflicts enter into a strategic interaction between two subjects. Then, comparing subjects across different identities reveals that people tend to favor in-group over out-group members. Finally, once the interaction between trust and different form of, partisan, social class and regional identities has been evaluated, we focus on the conditions under which out-group trust, namely trust towards different groups, is favored or prevented. In this respect, particular attention is paid on the importance of political sophistication, strength of identities, and the role of uncertainty about personal economic condition in lowering out-group trust and cooperation.



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Palabras clave: Trust, political polarization, party identification, national identities, survey-experiment