The Influence of Trust in Political Environments

The article Political Competition, Partisanship and Interpersonal Trust in Electoral Democracies by Ryan Carlin and Gregory Love proposes a number of interesting ideas when it comes to competitive behaviour in political alliances and trust itself. There are a number of different factors which influence trust especially in a political setting, many of which can be explored in terms of psychology.

One of the central elements that a lot of political controversy is dictated by, is trust. This is something that heavily impacts political competition and partisan trust due to parties having mutual beliefs in certain things. Furthermore, this idea of trust is what causes this stark polarization between parties due to mutual agreement on various ideas and beliefs. In other words, interpersonal trust is what causes groups to come together as this trust stems from people sharing and agreeing with the same ideas. Although this might seem obvious, Carlin and Love elaborate on how we tend to distrust people who do not share the same beliefs as we do and vice versa. In other words, “parties presumably form on the basis of shared political goals” and this is how competition becomes so prevalent between these partisan

A lot of what is mentioned can also be looked at in a psychological perspective in terms of ‘in’ and ‘out’ groups, as this is what creates stereotypes. Moreover, these stereotypes don’t have to necessarily be widely known or generic in any way and can be something an in-group has created and say about themselves which in turn, do not apply to the out-group. The example they use is that Republicans might call themselves trustworthy, and so if a they meet a stranger and find that they are Republican, this would mean they are trustworthy. These psychological biases are what creates this partisan distrust, and it is this distrust which causes competitive behaviour between polar groups. They see themselves as perhaps superior and feel the need to compete with groups inferior.

The idea of people not trusting other people if they have different beliefs might seem somewhat obvious, but for me it isn’t something that had come to mind before. For me it might just be that we disagree with their beliefs, but the idea of additionally not trusting them is an idea that may have been overlooked. For me, I feel that these common beliefs that are causing this partisan polarization should be looked at with less significance as it is causing strong distrust and provoking competition. I strongly agree with what Andrea said, that politics should focus more on a positive common goal between all parties instead of letting a negative common enemy be the only thing that unites them. If this can be achieved, then cooperation seems much more possible in such a competitive society that we live in today.

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