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Trust in Political Actors

Within the last decades, increasing social and political inequality, economic crises and political scandals are accompanied by a decline of political trust. But citizens’ trust in political actors is essential for the support and maintenance of the democratic system. Research in communication science and political science identified predictors of low trust (e.g., citizens’ social class, media’s focus on scandals rather than political issues). But one of the main obstacles in this research is that those predictors are hardly to change—if possible at all. To overcome that obstacle, we investigate different determinants of political trust that can be influenced by political actors themselves.

In a first research line, we investigate how diversity within political parties affects citizens’ trust in these parties and their politicians (see Ehrke, Bruckmüller, & Steffens, 2016). In a second research line, we examine how defensive political communication affects citizens’ perceptions of and trust in political leaders.

Next to determinants, we also address conceptual issues concerning trust. Contrasting different conceptualizations and measurements of trust, we develop a framework of trust to reconcile seemingly opposing trust concepts.

Central Publications:

Methner, N., Bruckmüller, S., & Steffens, M.C. (2020). Can accepting criticism be an effective impression management strategy for public figures? A comparison with denials and a counterattack. Basic and Applied Social Psychology. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01973533.2020.1754824

Bruckmüller, S., & Methner, N. (2018). The “Big Two” in citizens’ perceptions of politicians. In A. E. Abele & B. Wojciszke (Eds.), Agency and communion in social psychology (pp. 154–166). London: Routledge.

Ehrke, F., Bruckmüller, S., & Steffens, M. (2016). Weniger kompetent, aber dafür wärmer? Zum Einfluss sozialer Vielfalt von Parteien auf politisches Vertrauen. Politische Psychologie, 2016-1, 28-45.