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The World Association of Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) in collaboration with the Research and Expertise Center in Survey Methodology (RECSM) and the Universitat Pompeu Fabra will hold a regional conference on November 24th-25th of 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. The theme of the conference is Political Trust in Contemporary Representative Democracies.

Democratic representation seems to be in a crisis, at least from the citizen perspective. This is most notoriously observed in the low and still decreasing levels of political trust in the main institutions of democratic representation (parliaments, governments), social and political institutions of aggregation of interest (political parties and unions), and even international and supranational political and economic institutions. Citizens seem to be more and more critical towards these institutions essential for the political, economic and social order of contemporary representative democracies. This is a particularly notable problem in today’s world, given the already visible consequences. Citizen distrust can lead to significant threats to representative democracy such as political populism, increased levels of political protest and decreased levels of citizens involvement in electoral politics, the emergence of radical, non-systemic parties, and even increased political violence.

This topic has enjoyed considerable research attention, but the extant literature on political trust suffers from several problems. First, most of the studies are centered in a limited number of the world’s regions, mostly in Western postindustrial societies and more concretely in Europe and the United States, creating a case-selection bias in the literature that limits the generalizability of its findings. Second, the existing data are also fragmented and incomplete, especially aggregate data, limiting our ability to notice trends both over time and cross-nationally. Third, data analyses are not properly done or are based on a reduced number of case studies (countries), diminishing the statistical efficiency of the estimators at the aggregate level. Finally, most of the evidence on political trust is based on cross-sectional surveys (national and comparative) using the traditional institutional trust scale.

The aim of this congress will be to facilitate better research on the topic by increasing scholarly discourse on political trust and by calling for interregional comparative studies with individual or aggregate data on political trust, or for case or cases studies based on innovative measures of political trust and for using innovative survey designs or survey experiments. Papers based on big data from internet and social media sources will be also welcome.

IESA-CSIC will introduce a paper entitled Distrusting politicians, supporting alternative decision-making processes, written by Pau Alarcón (UPF-UB), José Luis Fernández (IESA-CSIC) and Joan Font (IESA-CSIC). This paper will be part of Panel 6, which go in depth with trust and support for politicians. The draft version of this paper can be downloaded here.


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