Trust in Politics; A Competitive Political Sphere

Ryan E. Carlin and Gregory J. Love’s article titled “Political Competition, Partisanship and Interpersonal Trust in Electoral Democracies” offers insight into the levels of trust discrimination between people, using the level of knowledge of personal identity – usually political viewpoints – as the dependent variable within their approaches. The form of the paper is a research paper, and it is one of the most credible research paper we have read this semester due to the amount of information, backing, and support the authors provide in regards to their large-scale study. Additionally, the significance of this analyses stems from the fact that people within partisan lines can act fragile and dishonest at times, and it is also the case that those across different partisan lines showcase the same levels of frailty in their trust for each other. Carlin and Love attempt to analyze the levels of trust and the importance of trust within partisan politics.

Carlin and Love begin to provide empirical evidence through a trust game in several countries; US, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, and Portugal. The game was organized so that participants were grouped into Player 1’s and Player 2’s and to simplify the matter Player 1’s had 10 lottery tickets and had to give an amount of their choice to Player 2 which was tripled before Player 2 received it, then Player 2 could return any amount of money back. This was how the authors tested “trust”. They then reveal different amounts of knowledge of Player 2’s political loyalty to a party and thus tested if knowledge of a stranger’s partisanship influenced their trust. The outcome of this wide-scale trust game concluded that in-group partisan lead to favoritism and trust and rival partisan as significantly less trustworthy. Thus, “political competition drives out-group distrust” (Colin and Love, 125).

The results of the trust game.

This test was very interesting to me because of the real-life implications of the conclusions. It may seems like there is a clear result and that the experiment worked, which it did, but the authors did not expand on the implications of these conclusions. The competition, stemming from distrust of out-group partisan strangers, is a representation of the political hostility and segregation between partisan lines that is evident in many nations today. The results could be linked to Jonathan Tepper’s article “The Myths of Capitalism” due to the link between capitalism and democracy in our modern world. Inequalities stem from the injustices in capitalism but also the injustices in our political system, as shown in Carlin and Love’s research. There seems to be a key link between injustices faced due to monopolies and unfair competition and the distrust that democracy produces.

Furthermore, a perfect real-life example is the current segregation and extreme division in politics in the US today – whereby the conclusions of this study can be directly applied to the extreme hostility between Trump supports (right-winged) and centrists/left-winged, and thus the further division between Liberals and Conservatives. This experiment outlines a clear conclusion about inter-partisan trust but it does not offer a clear solution to that distrust. It is the solution itself that is required to help the political competition in nations such as the U.S.

Anyway, to continue analyzing this article, the authors continue with the premise of the study above but instead of revealing partisan information, they revealed social information; such as race, class, social status, and more. The study was done separate and then a third time with information about partisanship and socio-economic factors too. First, the authors discovered “there was no evidence of in-group bias for socioeconomic status treatment”, and that there was even some reverse discrimination. Then, when mixing partisanship and socio-economic factors together, the results were almost replicate of the initial partisanship information study. Thus, partisanship was considered not a heuristic substitute for class. Partisanship lead to more competition than social cleavages in society – as seen in my example of the US as it is majorly a political divide rather than a socio-ethnic or socio-economic divide, although that does exist at a huge level too it may not be as prominent as political competition today.

Additionally, I thought it would interesting if any of my readers would like to test their political position using a political compass test. The results are usually really interesting and it gives you an explanation of your result too.

Here is an example of Canadian partisan lines from

The following image is from @micaheaton1‘s blog post;

As @micaheaton1 illustrates, this model is highly structured. Mica also alludes to the American political sphere to outline distrust between party lines. In my opinion, it may be hard for citizens to align themselves with a certain political title. Specifically, Mica states that “I personally wish that there was more breathing room within the labels which we use to judge one another”. This is a fair issue within modern politics; the issue that political labels are restrictive and stereotyped. Whether you are a leftist, centrist, or rightist, there is a common stereotype out there that will be placed on you as soon as you mention your position. This stems from the distrust that has been outlined in Carlin and Love’s research.

The End.

#WRDS150 #Politics #14M


  1. Thanks a lot for your analysis of the article. I was just wondering if you relate to some of the views spoken in the article and to what extent you have ever been in a situation of distrust of people sharing different views from yours. Would you say partisanship does more good than bad despite the separation it brings people due to the distrust?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. @blaiseappolinary8228 Thanks for your comment! I have not really been in a situation where I have distrusted someone after knowing their political views in real life, but it is definitely something I experience online with what I read and watch. For example, with Political commentary YouTube channels, I watch commentary that aligns with that I think or anything close to my perspectives, and I do trust their opinions more than those who do not align with me I suppose.

    Also, I would say partisanship does good things in politics, but bad things in social life due to the polarizing effect it can have (as I outlined in my blog post). However, despite of all things we discussed, I do think it is important to have different parties despite the distrust it might entail.


  3. Hi @charlesmb24, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I totally agree with you that current political climate in the US is an example of the effects of the partisain trust gap. I am also interested in thinking about how trust can be rebuilt after it has been broken. I was wondering if you think that one potential reason for why partisanship was a more accurate predictor of competitive behaviour then social cleavages was perhaps because political parties tend to take stances on these sorts of social cleavages? I really enjoyed your post, especially the visuals and the link to the test one could do one their political party preferences.


  4. @montylussow

    Thank you too for your comment. The point you’re asking about, that being political parties take stances on social cleavages which lead to partisan division, is a very valid interpretation. I think that political parties tent to divide on such sensitive social cleavages as well. For example, some sensitive social cleavages I notice political parties use to argue against one another are pro-choice or pro-life, gun control, immigration policies, or even LGBTQ+ rights. All of these examples are fundamental social cleavages that everyone has strong opinions on. It is those opinions which are rooting within people’s values and morals. Therefore, is it really a political cleavage? No, its a value judgement that needs to be made. But that doesn’t stop political parties from using those values to gain support and divide themselves further from other parties.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s