Importance of inter-partisan trust and how is it formed?

As Warren (1999) mentioned in his publication, democracy requires more trust than other forms of governance. Politicians need to trust opposing parties to have the best interest for everyone in heart, and trust them to play by the rules of the game. When they are unable to work together and trust each other, it will create social inefficiencies and lower institutional effectiveness (Carlin et al. 2016). When politicians focus too much on undermining and attacking their opponents, they create a zero-sum game where one wins and one looses, therefore fuelling further mistrust.

Distrust among partisan rivals may lead to further consequence of public distrust about the political system. As marierohmova mentions, “89% of Europeans believe that there is a growing discrepancy between public opinion and the opinion of the policy-makers.” If the public and policy-makers don’t share the same ideas, why should the public trust the system, especially when politicians seem to shift their goal from doing good for the public to “winning” the vote? Many problems may therefore evolve, and misunderstandings may lead to further mistrust, creating a vicious spiral.

It’s interesting to note that in partisan trust gap in U.S. disappeared immediately after Osama bin Laden’s death. Carlin et al. suggests external threat and victory leads to higher rival partisan trust. An example is the cooperation between Chinese Nationalist Party and Communist Party to rival Japanese invasion during the Second Sino-Japanese War. In this case, trust is formed between the two parties when facing a common enemy. It is seems that inter-partisan trust can only be formed in face of external threat and victory, where people need external reminders to trust the opposing party instead of doing it naturally.

1 Comment

  1. I agree with your example, there is a similar situation in 2013 when China is deciding a new leader and factions within the party is struggling for power. In order to create a diversion from internal issue, China shifted it focus to the sovereign claim on Japanese occupied Senkaku Island, which I found interesting.


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