Research Insights: Can Social Trust Explain the Quality of Government?

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Oct 2020
Voters would be better off if they removed politicians whose populist policies lead to low-quality government, yet in many political contexts, including those with free and fair elections, voters do the opposite. Voters must act collectively to shape political incentives, but low trust among voters is an obstacle to collective action. In this environment, low-quality government and populism emerge as optimal electoral strategies for political candidates. New survey data from 6,040 individuals in seven Latin American countries indicate that voters who express low trust are significantly more likely to prefer populist candidates and policies that reflect a low quality of government.