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Trust in the time of coronavirus: longitudinal evidence from the United States


  • Aassve,Arnstein
  • Capezzone,Tommaso
  • Cavalli,Nicolo’
  • Conzo,Pierluigi
  • Peng,Chen

    (University of Turin)


The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed most countries to an unexpected crisis, with unclear consequences for citizens’ trust in others and in public authorities. This study shed lights on how social and political trust changed during the pandemic. We conducted a longitudinal survey in the US of about 1000 respondents at three points in time during the pandemic. We elicited respondents’ trust towards other people and towards different institutional authorities, along with attribution of responsibility for the current situation. Results show that institutional trust fell, while interpersonal trust slightly increased, especially during the peak of the first pandemic wave. This dynamic was mainly driven by Republicans, whose institutional trust decreased, especially when exposed to COVID-19, along with growth in social trust. Considering that Republicans attributed, at the time, more responsibilities to their political leader, we argue that institutional trust was crowded out by social trust. Disappointed voters felt unprotected by institutions and looked for support elsewhere in society. Consistent with this, though, in the reverse direction, experimental results from the third wave show that Republicans increased institutional trust. However, social trust fell when primed with positive information about the pandemic. Overall, these findings suggest that societal shocks may induce people to exchange formal with informal institutions as a coping strategy, with social and political trust moving in opposite directions.

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  • Aassve,Arnstein & Capezzone,Tommaso & Cavalli,Nicolo’ & Conzo,Pierluigi & Peng,Chen, 2022. "Trust in the time of coronavirus: longitudinal evidence from the United States," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 202203, University of Turin.
  • Handle: RePEc:uto:dipeco:202203

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