Why we (dis)trust our political leaders

On this Dutch election day, political scientist dr. Lisanne de Blok discusses the development of political trust and distrust of (Dutch) citizens over the past twenty years and explains the influence of current events such as the COVID-19 Pandemic.

On March 17 this year, the Dutch have expressed their political support at the ballot box by deciding who got the 150 seats of the Tweede Kamer, the Dutch House of Representatives. But, what about the state of trust and distrust of Dutch citizens in politicians, institutions, and the political system? And how is this compared to other countries? Although alarming headlines in the newspaper regularly tell us that citizens no longer trust the government, scientific research provides a more nuanced view.

Research shows, for example, that the average level of trust of Dutch citizens in judicial and political institutions is not lower than it was twenty years ago. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, political trust has actually peaked. What is driving these trends in political trust?

The increasing complexity of contemporary politics makes it difficult for citizens to form a well-considered judgment of confidence about the political system. Moreover, while political trust may not have declined overall, we do observe a growing gap between ideological groups in those who trust and does who don’t.

Dr. Lisanne de Blok is a Post Doctoral researcher at the Political Science & Public Administration department at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her research focuses on the policy-feedback link between policy performance and political support in multilevel governance systems. In this talk, she explains the meaning of political trust, its value for democracy, the development over the years, and how to build trust. Also, she explains how current events like the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Toeslagenaffaire1, and the general elections influence political trust and distrust in the Netherlands.

1The debacle in the fraud approach to childcare allowance by the Dutch Tax Authorities.

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