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b c Population a Low High Trust
Trust in Government
Figure 2 Distribution Shift
Furthermore, the case depicted in Figure 2 is not the only one likely to happen. Government
policies and outcomes can create shifts in the mean and in the distribution of trust in government.
Figure 3 shows a progression from a relatively low level of trust to a higher level of trust with a
change in distribution. First, when the population, as an aggregate, has a low level of trust
(mean a), a higher fraction of that population would be willing to engage in actions to prevent or
obstruct government actions, since a low level of trust in government influences negative views
of government activity (Weakliem and Villemez, 2004) and thereby changes the actual and
perceived outcomes that the population uses to update its view of the level of trust that the
government deserves over time. As the overall trust level grows (from mean a to b to c), we 2 hypothesize that the fraction of the population that is anti-government decreases significantly,
increasing the success rate of government actions. Fraction of Population likely to engage in
actions to prevent or obstruct government
action (or harm government). b c Population a Low High Trust
Trust in Government
Figure 3 Asymmetric Changes in Distribution Trust and Confidence
Trust is a key concept in social studies, and there seems to be general agreement in that trust is an
important antecedent to cooperation (Ho and Weigelt, 2005; Lundin, 2007; Martinez-Moyano,
2006; Putnam, 1995). Recent research, however, suggests there is a possibility of achieving
cooperation without trust (Cook, Hardin, and Levi, 2005a; Raymond, 2006). In addition, trust has
been mentioned as the foundation for good governance (Cheema, 2005), and although “trust is an
unattractive concept for economists since it is not measurable” (Perelman, 1998, p. 386), and
“regardless of the difficulty of placing trust in econometric equations” (Perelman, 1998, p. 387),
trust is gaining acceptance and importance as a crucial economic variable that needs to be
included in studies related to government performance (Yang and...
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