Trust, distrust and skepticism: Popular evaluations of civil and political institutions in post-communist societies

William Mishler, Richard Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

405 Scopus citations


Popular trust in social and political institutions is vital to the consolidation of democracy, but in post-Communist Europe, distrust is the predicted legacy of Communist rule. Contrary to expectations, however, New Democracies Barometer surveys of popular trust in fifteen institutions across nine Eastern and Central European countries indicate that skepticism, rather than distrust, predominates. Although trust varies across institutions and countries, citizens trust holistically, evaluating institutions along a single dimension. Both early life socialization experiences and contemporary performance evaluations influence levels of trust. The legacy of socialization under Communism has mostly indirect effects, whereas the effects of economic and political performance evaluations on trust are larger and more direct. Thus, skepticism reflects trade-offs between public dissatisfaction with current economic performance, optimism about future economic performance, and satisfaction with the political performance of contemporary institutions in providing greater individual liberties than in the Communist past.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)418-451
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1997


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this