The glue that keeps democracies together? Political trust


A thorough understanding of the effects of political trust, and how it can be built, is essential to combat the rise of populism and anti-system parties, and would be valuable for democracy assistance more broadly. Despite this, political trust remains poorly understood, according to Susan Dodsworth and Nic Cheeseman of Birmingham University’s International Development Department.

Political trust is the one factor that seems to dictate the extent to which governments have been able to respond successfully to the COVID-19 pandemic, they write in a new report for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD):

Trust in political institutions such as the legislature, executive branch, police, and courts, is commonly thought to shape both the stability and quality of democracy. In recent years, as populist leaders and anti-system parties have won high-profile electoral victories, some have presented falling levels of political trust as a crisis – both for established democracies and for their younger counterparts. Citizens report alarmingly low levels of trust in their governments in places as varied as Spain, Tunisia, Peru, Poland and Australia.

Partly as a result, many democracy assistance organisations, including the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), support programmes that aim to foster political trust, they add. RTWT

The age of impunity abroad is fueled by democratic recession at home and a loss of soft power in democratic countries, which you’re seeing in the COVID crisis, according to former UK Foreign Minister David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee. I was on a Zoom yesterday morning with our team in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he tells Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick:

There are five ventilators in the whole of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and there are 100 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and it’s the size of Western Europe, literally, in geographical space. So there’s a double emergency. There’s a health emergency because some of the underlying health conditions are comorbid in a dangerous way with COVID, and there’s an economic and social emergency because livelihoods are cratering, violence against women is rising.

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