Political Science Publications and Other Works

Source Publication (e.g., journal title)

Comparative Political Studies

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2006


What explains low levels of trust in government institutions in democratizing Latin American countries? We examine this question in the Dominican Republic, employing data from three surveys conducted over 1994-2001. Our analysis finds that trust in government institutions is shaped primarily by perceptions of economic and political performance by government. There is little evidence of a relationship between civic engagement and institutional trust, and no relationship between democratic values and institutional trust. We find a curvilinear effect between socioeconomic status and institutional trust, with middle-sector groups significantly less trusting of government institutions than either the poor or the wealthy. Age has a nonlinear effect as older generations, who experienced authoritarianism as children, are considerably more trusting of democratic institutions, contradicting predictions by culturalist early-life socialization arguments. We conclude that low trust per se is not the major challenge for governance.

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