Measuring Trust and Transparency

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - G466 (University of Glasgow)
Ian Stafford , Department of Politics and International Relations, Cardiff Univiersity
Trust & transparency lie at heart of contemporary debates on governance and democracy.  In the expression of O.Neill (2002, p. 8) ‘mistrust and suspicion have spread across all areas of life…loss of trust has become a cliché of our times.’  The key questions addressed by this communication include whether levels of trust in democracy are rising or falling, whether citizen trust a prerequisite for good democratic government and how can we conceptualise trust (Fisher et al., 2010; van Deth et al., 1991). We follow Grimmelikhuijsen (2012) in framing trust as a multidimensional concept, centred on perceived competence, perceived benevolence and perceived honesty.   The paper presents the principal indicators of trust (measures that capture trust in the incumbent national leadership; that tap a generalised cynicism about the motives and conduct of professional politicians; that demonstrate a diffuse affect for the political regime based on perceptions of the fairness and responsiveness of major institutions). Transparency is sometimes offered as a remedy to tackle the problems that ostensibly produce distrust. Transparency is defined by Grimmelikhuijsen & Welch (2012, p.563) in terms of ‘the availability of information about an organisation or actor that allows external actors to monitor the internal workings of performance of that organisation’.  Revising the debates between transparency ‘optimists’ and transparency ‘pessimists’, the paper elucidates the various dimensions of transparency (of decision-making processes, policy content and policy outcomes) and presents the trust-transparency matrix as a new heuristic that facilitates cross-national multi-level comparisons.
  • Stafford (2017) Measuring Trust & Transparency.pdf (436.8 kB)