Has the financial crisis shattered citizens’ trust in national and European governmental institutions? Evidence from the EU member states, 1999-2010

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08 February 2011
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The financial crisis has affected trust in national and European governmental institutions in different ways. This paper analyses the determinants of trust in the national and European institutions over the last decade and comes to the conclusion that inflation reduces citizens’ trust only when the economy runs smoothly. In times of crisis, citizens do not worry about inflation but rather about jobs and the effects of a recession. Declining trust in national governments is related to an increase in unemployment in the EU-15 in all time periods, whereas trust in the European Commission and the European Parliament seems to be strongly associated with the situation in the real economy (unemployment and growth of GDP per capita) only in times of crisis. Yet in the EU-27, falling levels of trust in the national and European governmental institutions during times of crisis seem to be primarily related to an increase in government debt. In an EU-15 country sample, this negative relationship appears to be driven by countries that owe a larger share of their increase in government debt to aiding/bailing out their financial sector and the implementation of significant austerity measures.