English title: Does political trust matter? An empirical investigation into the relation between political trust and support for law compliance

Author(s): Sofie Marien - Marc Hooghe -

Language: English

Type: Journal article

Year: 2011


Scholars have repeatedly expressed concern about the consequences low levels of political trust might have for the stability of democratic political systems. Empirical support and the identification of causal mechanisms for this concern, however, are often lacking. In this article, the relation between political trust and law-abiding attitudes is investigated. It is expected that citizens with low levels of trust in the institutions of the political system will find it more acceptable to break the law. As a result, low levels of political trust might undermine the effectiveness and legitimacy of government action and its ability to implement legislation. Based on survey data from 33 European countries using the 1999–2001 European Values Study (N = 41,125), the relation between political trust and legal permissiveness is examined using a multilevel ordered logistic regression analysis. The results show that respondents with low levels of political trust are significantly more likely to accept illegal behaviour such as tax fraud than respondents with high levels of political trust. Since it is known from earlier research that actors who are permissive towards law-breaking behaviour are more likely to commit these acts themselves, the hypothesis that low levels of political trust will be associated with less law compliance within a society is supported.

Volume: 50

Issue: 2

From page no: 267

To page no: 291

Refereed: Yes

DOI: 10.1111/J.1475-6765.2010.01930.X

Journal: European Journal of Political Research

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