Civic Engagement and Trust in National and Local Governments
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This dissertation project tries to answer the following question: How is collective political trust generated from individual political trust across federal and local levels? As a function of maintaining democracy, political trust has been examined since survey research started. The extant literature has discovered the mechanisms shaping trust in government but focuses only on trust in federal government. To grasp the entire picture of trust in government, it is important to analyze the interaction between trust in subnational and national governments. Specifically, I focus on a puzzle in the literature on a relationship between political trust and civic engagement. Despite the expectations of the extant theoretic work on social capital, there is little empirical evidence of a relationship between individual political trust and civic engagement. To solve this puzzle, I examine the effects of social trust on individual political trust not only at the federal level but also at the local level. The central argument of my dissertation is that the mechanisms shaping citizens’ trust in each level of government are different. I argue that trust in local government largely stems from civic engagement while trust in federal government is mainly a function of citizens’ perception of government performance. The dissertation starts by constructing a formal model and demonstrates that other information sources available to citizens prevent the government from manipulating information. This suggests that civic engagement works as another information source in local politics differently than in national politics. Following this model, I examine the effects of civic engagement on trust in national and local government. The first empirical chapter demonstrates the different effects of aggregate civic engagement on trust in the national and local governments using Bayesian vector autoregression models. The second empirical chapter examines the relationship between civic engagement and trust in the national and local government at the individual level using a multivariate multilevel model. This chapter also tries to explain the covariance between national and local political trust at the individual level. The results presented in the dissertation lead to the following conclusions: (1) Civic engagement does not affect political trust. (2) The movement of civic engagement affects the movement of trust in local government more strongly than trust in the federal government. (3) Community-level civic engagement affects individual’s trust in local and national government. In sum, civic engagement collectively affects trust in local government more closely than trust in the federal government. By examining the relationship between political trust in each level of government and civic engagement using time-series and multivariate-multilevel models, we can learn how the hierarchical structure of democracy contributes to its stability.
Nakajo, Miwa (2015). Civic Engagement and Trust in National and Local Governments. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from