Nordic Social Attitudes in a European Perspective

Nordic Social Attitudes in a European Perspective

Edited by Heikki Ervasti, Torben Fridberg, Mikael Hjerm and Kristen Ringdal

Providing highly rigorous and up-to-date data, with a wide coverage of topics, this book will be of great interest to academics and students in sociology, social policy and political science. It will also appeal to anyone interested in the Nordic countries in general.

Chapter 7: Trust in Political Institutions

Ola Listhaug and Kristen Ringdal

Subjects: social policy and sociology, comparative social policy


Ola Listhaug and Kristen Ringdal INTRODUCTION In this chapter we investigate how the Nordic countries rank on political trust in Europe. Citizens’ trust in the major institutions in a society is important for the state of democracy as well as for the functioning of broader social and economic processes in society. High trust levels signify that institutions are working effectively, thus reducing the chance that nondemocratic forms of government will receive support. High trust levels facilitate social and economic exchange and reduce transaction costs in markets. Trust reduces the need for control and supervision, which saves money for the government as well as for firms and other actors in the private sector. In the comparative dimension, countries with high trust will be at an advantage in attracting investments, trade and tourism. For these reasons we see political trust as a success criterion for societies. Based on what we know from previous research, the Nordic countries place favourably on political trust measures. But, whereas we know that the Nordic countries score high on political trust, we know little about the reasons behind this pattern. Is there a peculiar quality to the Nordic countries – a Nordic model (Østerud 2005) – or is their success in creating political trust among their citizens primarily a reflection of the fact that they are small, rich, and homogeneous in social and economic terms? Are there other countries that share these characteristics and also have high levels of political trust? In most cases high trust levels...

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