D3D9CF94d01 - Cook and Gronke The Skeptical American...

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Cook and Gronke - 1 - The Skeptical American: Revisiting the Meanings of Trust in Government and Confidence in Institutions Timothy E. Cook Professor of Mass Communication and Political Science Manship School of Mass Communication Louisiana State University Paul Gronke Associate Professor of Political Science Reed College March 2004 Acknowledgement: Our thanks above all to the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs at Louisiana State University and its director, Adrienne Moore, for funding the survey. The Corbett Student-Faculty Research Fund of Reed College also provided partial support for this research. Thanks to Harvey Palmer for an acute critique of an earlier draft, to Kirby Goidel for methodological advice and encouragement, to the editor and reviewers for the Journal of Politics for astute suggestions, and to Aaron Rabiroff for research assistance.
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Cook and Gronke - 2 - Abstract This paper critically analyzes the survey literature on trust in government and confidence in institutions. It highlights the gap between theoretical understandings of trust which encompass trust, lack of trust, and distrust, next to empirical realizations which fail to consider active distrust of government. Using a specially tailored survey designed for this project, the paper is the first which directly compares competing operationalizations of trust and distrust. The most frequently used measures, both from the National Election Studies and the General Social Survey, tend to exaggerate the level of disaffection compared to a new measure especially designed to run from active trust, which anticipates that the government will do the right thing, to active distrust, the expectation that it will do the wrong thing. Multivariate analyses reveal statistically significant differences in the underlying determinants of these measures. The conventional NES measure in particular is more influenced by short-term evaluations of political events and leaders; our new measure of active trust/distrust taps a more deeply-seated orientation toward government.
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Cook and Gronke - 3 - Americans, according to today’s conventional political science wisdom, are deeply distrustful of governmental and social institutions. Books with titles such as The Malevolent Leaders (Craig 1993) or Congress as Public Enemy (Hibbing and Theiss-Morse 1995) or Why Americans Hate Politics (Dionne 1991) suggest a high level of political alienation. Unable to ascertain robust predictors of trust or confidence, social scientists depict a contemporary zeitgeist of suspicion and cynicism: A situation of widespread, basic discontent and political alienation exists in the U.S. today (Miller 1974a: 951). Social scientists analyzing these surveys continue to perceive in them alienation, distrust, lack of confidence, and the attribution of low levels of legitimacy to social and political institutions. .. (Lipset and Schneider 1987: 3) The evidence to be reviewed in this book. .. suggests that our traditional ambivalence
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D3D9CF94d01 - Cook and Gronke The Skeptical American...

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