Capacity to trust? Institutional capacity, conflict, and political trust in Africa, 2000â€“2005
Civil conflict and state failure has often been linked to breakdowns in regime legitimacy. Trust in government is a critical element of regime legitimacy and the stateâ€™s ability to mediate between the demands of competing groups within society. We contend that government capability is a primary factor in shaping individualsâ€™ ascription of legitimacy to the state. Capable governments foster perceptions of legitimacy while poor institutional performance decreases the degree to which individuals trust their government. While some tests of this relationship exist in extant literature, much of the work fails to integrate both micro- and macro-level factors, is confined to regions with established state performance, or is based on single-country studies. Our approach avoids many of these deficiencies by using 32 Afrobarometer surveys collected across 16 different countries from 2000 to 2005 and employing hierarchical linear models to estimate the effects of temporal-specific, state-level variables on levels of individual trust. We find that higher institutional capacity is associated with increased levels of individual trust in government across African countries. Furthermore, we demonstrate that this effect on political trust is independent of other individual-level attitudes, socio-economic characteristics, and a stateâ€™s prior internal conflicts.
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