The World Association of Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) in collaboration with the Research and Expertise Center in Survey Methodology (RECSM), and the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) held a regional conference on Political Trust in Contemporary Representative Democracies in Barcelona, Spain last month November 24th-25th. The conference took place in a modern and functional building located in a campus very close to the Olympic Port in Barcelona, in a fantastic setting.
The conference schedule included two very intense days – a total of 44 presentations organized in 12 different panels – and included scholars from various generations from around the world. The list of panels was as follows:
Panel 1. Trust and the economy
Panel 2. Trust in institutions around the globe
Panel 3. Methodological aspects
Panel 4. Trust and the winner-loser gap
Panel 5. Social media, online activism and political participation
Panel 6. Trust in and support for politicians
Panel 7. Trust in the media, trust and the media
Panel 8. Political Trust in Perspective: National and International comparisons
Panel 9. Determinants of trust
Panel 10. Political trust: measurement considerations
Panel 11. Electoral consequences of political trust and support
Panel 12. Political trust and the public
As evidenced in many of these panels, democratic representation seems to be in a crisis, at least from the citizen perspective. This is most notoriously observed in the low and still decreasing levels of political trust in the main institutions of democratic representation (parliaments, governments), social and political institutions of aggregation of interest (political parties and unions), and even international and supranational political and economic institutions. Citizens seem to be more and more critical towards these institutions essential for the political, economic and social order of contemporary representative democracies. However, as some of the panelists have convincingly argued, this is not a uniform process across all countries or regions. Many of them have been precisely focused in explaining cross-national and time variations comparatively or in illustrating cases studies.
The presentations addressed this topic by using diverse cross-national or longitudinal designs, panel surveys, or survey experiments (or even field studies). Others papers focused on important methodological issues, including those related with error measurement and its empirical consequences. Others centered on the importance of political communication as an essential mechanism explaining the process of increasing political distrust. Finally, others focused on the behavioral and electoral consequences of political distrust. As it has been addressed by many presentations, citizen’s distrust can lead to the increase of political populist parties, or the emergence of radical and anti-systemic parties. It could also lead to other behavioral consequences such as the decrease of political protest, and the decrease levels of citizen’s involvement in electoral politics.
The aim of the conference was to facilitate better research on the topic by increasing scholarly networks working on political trust, and by producing more interregional comparative studies from scholars around the world. The conference included high quality papers, provided the opportunity for discussion, and allowed for connections established between scholars for an intellectually successful event. Visit the conference website for more information.