Do We Trust Friends or Politicians?

This week we explored the idea of trust in politics, mainly in elections and democratic societies. The idea that politics run on a nation’s ability to trust one another within political groups (and across political groups) is quite understandable, seeing as politics help us decide who has the power to control the way things work and decide what actions to perform. So, naturally, if citizens/voters don’t possess that interpersonal trust in governance – particularly democracy – there can be problems. However, in Carlin and Love’s article, they also proposed the idea that although interpersonal trust can significantly strengthen cooperation within groups, it can also significantly dismantle cooperation across groups.

When I reflected on my past experiences discussing politics with peers, I realized that though some people (including myself at times) had no idea what the bigger picture was, they had a much easier time blindly accepting the views of people similar to themselves. So for people who don’t normally follow politics, when they are asked to group themselves politically do they just gravitate towards their group’s collective opinion? It makes sense – if your friend is the same race, age, and has the same economic status as you it’s likely that you would need similar things as them. That was really interesting to me. Trust is evident in all aspects of life and this bandwagoning in political views is no exception.

Relating that to this week’s presentation, Bowler and Donovan’s academic journal touched upon how different social groups have varying attitudes towards electoral campaigns, which I found also has a lot to do with trusting the people in your group over the ones that aren’t. Of course there are other variables that need to be taken into account, but it’s apparent that people are way more likely to trust their group’s political views. I agree with what Alex brought up; one’s political views describe their values and priorities in life and we surround ourselves with people that have values similar to our own. That got me thinking – do our values come from our political affiliation or does our political affiliation act as a template for our values?

Voters need to be able to trust in the information that the candidates present to them and be vulnerable enough to benefit from this trust and understand the sides of every story. Then again, like we have mentioned numerous times in class, people are naturally competitive and many get too invested in “winning” for their own group and focusing on “beating” groups that aren’t their own – which can result in bad consequences for everybody. But, it’s actually very possible to understand other peoples’ opinions even if we do not agree with them. If we do so, we can bridge the divide and lessen the effect of out-group distrust by letting our guard down.

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