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Confidence in Government and Happiness in EU and US. Sergiu Baltatescu University of Oradea. International Joint Workshop: Europe and North America - Societies in Contrast Hanse Institute for Advanced Study, Delmenhorst, Germany,6 - 9 March 2005. Specific CCSC Trends Addressed.

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confidence in government and happiness in eu and us

Confidence in Government and Happiness in EU and US

Sergiu BaltatescuUniversity of Oradea

International Joint Workshop: Europe and North America - Societies in Contrast

Hanse Institute for Advanced Study, Delmenhorst, Germany,6-9March 2005

specific ccsc trends addressed
Specific CCSC Trends Addressed
  • 11. Ideologies
      • 11.2 Confidence in Institutions
  • 17. Attitudes and Values
      • 17.1 Satisfaction
decline in confidence in government
Decline in confidence in government
  • Acknowledged for the last 35 years in US.
  • “Whereas over 70% of Americans in 1960 indicated that they trusted government "almost always" or "most of the time" this proportion dipped below 40% in 1974, recovering slightly in the mid-1980s only to reach new lows in the 1990s" (Brooks and Cheng, 2001)
  • Also in European Union, on a lesser extent, but less documented by research.
decline in confidence in government1
Decline in confidence in government

Debates on measures:

  • NES and GSS: very different measures
  • divergent in 80’s
  • Each measure has strengths and week points.
  • Alternative measures proposed.
decline in confidence in government2
Decline in confidence in government

Debates on conceptualizations:

  • “The conventional wisdom was challenged in the wake of the September 11”
  • Decline in trust in government dramatically shifted in US
decline in confidence in government3
Decline in confidence in government

Causes:

  • long-term secular changes in attitudes toward authority (Inglehart 1999)
  • profound economic changes caused by the information revolution and globalization (Giddens 1990)
decline in confidence in government4
Decline in confidence in government

Causes:

  • “symbolic” changes in the political process that increased the distance between the political activists and the public (Lipset and Schneider 1983)
  • a more consistently negative approach by the press to government and other institutions (Nye Jr. 1997).
decline in confidence in government5
Decline in confidence in government

Effects - negative

  • inefficiency of the institutions involved
  • changes in policy preferences (presumed, but not proved)
  • the legitimacy of a democratic regime may be called into question

Effects - positive

  • A certain amount of skepticism seems to be healthy for a democracy
subjective well being
Subjective well-being
  • Is a measure of the individual and societal output
  • Has two levels:
    • global (happiness,life satisfaction)
    • sectorial (satisfaction with job, family, political system)
  • Two dimensions:
    • Cognitive (life satisfaction).
    • Hedonic (happiness, affect scales).
happiness
Happiness
  • Hedonic component of subjective well-being
  • Used interchangeably with subjective well-being
  • Relatively stable in time, but sufficiently sensitive to social change
happiness in us
Happiness in US
  • Mean-levels relatively stable in time (not steep slopes)
  • US:
    • slight decrease.
    • concern: “age of anxiety”
    • debates: happiness is relative?
happiness in eu
Happiness in EU
  • Mixed, but general increasing trend.
  • Source: Eurobarometer trend file 1973-2002, 11 countries subset
trust in government and happiness in eu and us
Trust in government and happiness in EU and US

Comparison difficulties:

  • Different measures in EU and US

Paradox:

  • Correlated at individual level in every country
  • EU and US nations trends not match:
    • US: both series decline
    • EU: happiness increase, trust decrease
how to interpret correlation
How to interpret correlation?

A society with peoples trusting authorities is theoreticallymore livable.

Confidence increase the efficiency of government and prevents disorders.

Livability (Veenhoven, 1993) is one of the most influential explanatory theories for the variations in happiness.

how to interpret correlation1
How to interpret correlation?
  • Braud (1996): Pluralist democracies have the aptitude to manage the emotional dynamisms of the society”
  • Confidence in Government may enhance the feelings of safety.
  • A possible explanation for the 2001 shift in US.
how to interpret correlation2
How to interpret correlation?

Brehm & Rahn (1997)“Americans transfer their unhappiness about their own lives onto confidence about federal institutions.”

how to interpret correlation3
How to interpret correlation?

Interpersonal trust is one of the most important determinants of confidence in government.

how to interpret correlation4
How to interpret correlation?
  • Inglehart(1999) “Postmodernization Brings Declining Respect for Authority”
  • Shifting values like postmaterialism may intervene here.
data method
Data & Method

World Values Surveys and European Values Surveys 1981-1984, 1990-1993, 1995-1997, and 1999-2001 (Inglehart, 2000, 2004).

  • Selected 11 EU countries (France, Britain, W Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Finland).
  • USA & Canada included
data method1
Data & Method

3 Waves:

  • Approximately 10 years distance
  • 1981-1984, 1990-1993, 1999-2001
  • WVS intermediary wave 1995-1997 collected data only for few countries, therefore not included.
data method2
Data & Method
  • Spain was entered in the collection with the data from WVS 1995-1997.
  • For first two waves it was included only W Germany. Last wave include also East Germany
variables
Variables
  • Life satisfaction (1-10 scale)

“All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?”

  • “Trust in government” included only in WVS 1995-1997  impossible to make comparisons.
  • “Trust in government institutions” scale was constructed, analog to that used by Listhaug & Wiberg (1995).
variables1
Variables
  • Four items, 1-4 summative scale:

Question: “Please look at this card and tell me, for each item listed, how much confidence you have in them, is it a great deal, quite a lot, not very much or none at all?

      • Armed forces
      • Police
      • Parliament
      • Public services
variables2
Variables

Psychometric proprieties of the index of confidence :

  • Reliability: at/little below limit Cronbach alpha above 1981 - 0.70, 1990 – 0,668, 1999-2000 – 0.672
  • Convergent validity: correlation with “confidence in government” in US and Canada 1999-2000 varying around 0,5-0,6.
trust in government institutions comparative
Trust in government institutions - comparative
  • All three countries follow the same pattern:
  • Decrease in the 80’s
  • Stagnation/slight increase in the 90’s
  • All values above mean of the interval
  • EU (11 countries) have the lowest values!
trust in government institutions europe
Trust in government institutions - Europe
  • General decrease in the 80’s (except Ireland and Denmark)
  • Mixed patterns in the 90’s
    • decrease (Germany, UK)
    • increase (Finland, Italy, Denmark)
    • stagnation (all other countries)
  • Spain, Belgium, Italy below mean of the interval.
trust in government institutions europe1
Trust in government institutions - Europe
  • Police, armed forces, highest rates, and also highest decrease rates in the 80’s
  • Parliament, civil services
    • lowest ratings
    • Confidence decreased to a lesser extent in the 80’s.
  • While all other institutions partially recovered their loss in confidence in the 90’s, Parliament still decreases.
trust in government institutions us
Trust in government institutions - US
  • Similar pattern as in EU, with police, armed forces having highest confidence but also highest decrease rates in the 80’s
  • Only armed forces recovered their loss in confidence in the 90’s.
  • Parliament, with lowest rates, has also a steep decrease.
life satisfaction comparative
Life satisfaction - comparative
  • Different patterns:
  • US & Canada – slight decrease
  • EU slight increase in the 80’s, stagnation in the 90’s
  • All values between 7 and 8 (from 10)
  • Canada with higher scores, EU again with the lowest values!
life satisfaction eu
Life satisfaction - EU
  • North/south divison
    • Sweden, Denmark & Finland highest scores
    • France, Italy and Spain lowest scores
  • Significant increase in the 80’s for most countries
  • Different patterns in the 90’s
confidence in government institutions and life satisfaction
Confidence in government institutions and life satisfaction

Nation-level means correlation for 13 countries:

  • 1981-1984: r=0,423
  • 1990-1993: r=0,471
  • 1999-2001: r=0,642
confidence in government institutions and life satisfaction1
Confidence in government institutions and life satisfaction

Big picture: 36 European countries + US + Canada

r2 = 0,497

Countries included in the study are in a top positions

confidence in government institutions and life satisfaction2
Confidence in government institutions and life satisfaction

Picture at individual level:

  • Individual-level 0-level correlation varies in the 1999-2001 wave between 0,91 (Netherlands) and 0,215 (Ireland) with Overall European correlation of 0,168
  • US and Canada – around 0.12.
  • For the other two waves, correlations are similar, being significant for all countries.
individual level correlation across three waves
Individual-level correlation across three waves

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

n.s. non significant

confidence in government institutions and life satisfaction3
Confidence in government institutions and life satisfaction
  • Rank-order scores of Pearson correlation are similar in all three waves.
  • Persistent lower correlations in Italy, France & Spain
  • Highest in Ireland, Germany
  • There may be country characteristic that influence the magnitude of the association (social capital?)
testing inglehart s hypothesis
Testing Inglehart’s hypothesis

Across all countries/waves, postmaterialism is negatively correlated with trust in government in institutions

Correlations signs & values between happiness postmaterialism are mixed.

Controlling for postmaterialism, correlation between happiness and confidence in government institutions remains significant.

influence of gdp
Influence of GDP

At country level, in all vaves, GDP/capita is highly positively correlated with trust in government institutions and also happiness

Controlling for GDP/capita, correlation between happiness and confidence in government institutions remains significant.

conclusions confidence in government institutions
Conclusions – confidence in government institutions
  • In all waves, US have higher levels
  • But also steepest decline.
  • Similar ranking:
    • authority (police, armed forces) comes first
    • deliberative (parliament) comes last
  • Similar patterns of variation across waves:
    • Decrease in the 80’s
    • Stagnation/slight increase in the 90’s
conclusions happiness
Conclusions – happiness
  • US also higher levels
  • Different patterns of variation across waves:
    • US & Canada – slight decrease
    • EU slight increase in the 80’s, stagnation in the 90’s
conclusions happiness confidence in government
Conclusions – happiness & confidence in government
  • Individual-level correlation coefficients
    • Significantly positive across all nations and waves
    • still significant when controlling for postmaterialism levels
  • Nations have relatively stable individual-level correlations.
  • Nation-level correlation coefficients
    • still significant when controlling for GDP/capita
    • Are increasing across waves  greater homogeneity
conclusion
Conclusion
  • Similar and convergent trend in EU and US
acknowledgement
Acknowledgement
  • Some of the theoretical considerations are drawing from a text included in the research proposal “Well-Being and Society”, submitted in EU 5th Framework Program in January 2002.
  • Many thanks to Prof. Ruut Veenhoven from Erasmus University Rotterdam, promoter and coordinator of this project, who proposed to me to work on this issue and made very important suggestions.
reference list
Reference list
  • Bălţătescu, S. (2002). Trust in Institutions and Well-Being: a State of the Art. Analele Universităţii din Oradea, Fascicula Sociologie-Filosofie-Asistenþã Socialã, 1, 95-99.
  • Braud, P. (1997). Decline of the founding values of democracy and weakening of quasi-missionary institutions. Studies in Comparative International Development, 32/3 (1997): 112-123.
  • Brehm, J., & Rahn, W. (1997). Individual-level evidence for the causes and consequences of social capital. American Journal of Political Science, 41(3): 999-1024.
  • Brooks, C., & Cheng, S. (2001). Declining Government Confidence and Policy Preferences in the U.S: Devolution, Regime Effects, or Symbolic Change? Social Forces.79, 1343-1375.
reference list1
Reference list
  • Chanley, V. A., Rudolph, T. J., & Rahn, W. (2000). The Origins and Consequences of Public Trust in Government: A Time Series Analysis. Public Opinion Quarterly, 64, 239–256.
  • Dogan, M. (1996). La crise de confiance dans les democraties pluralistes. In Universalia (Ed.), Encyclopaedia Universalis.
  • Giddens, A. (1990). The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Inglehart, R. (1999). Postmodernization Brings Declining Respect for Authority, but Rising Support for Democracy. In P. Norris (Ed.), Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Government. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
reference list2
Reference list
  • Inglehart, R., et al.. (2000). WORLD VALUES SURVEYS ANDEUROPEAN VALUES SURVEYS, 1981-1984, 1990-1993, 1995-1997. [Computer file] ICPSRversion.
  • Inglehart, R., et al.. (2004). WORLD VALUES SURVEYS ANDEUROPEAN VALUES SURVEYS, 1999-2000. [Computer file] ICPSRversion.
  • Lipset, S. M., & Schneider, W. G. (1983). The Decline of Confidence in American Institutions. Political Science Quarterly, 98(3), 379-402.
  • Listhaug, O., & Wiberg, M. (1995). Confidence in Political and Private Institutions. In H.-D. Klingemann & D. Fuchs (Eds.), Citizens and the state (Beliefs in government vol. 1) (pp. xxi, 474 p.). Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Nye, J. S. (1997). Introduction: The Decline of Confidence in Government. In J. S. Nye, P. Zelikow & D. C. King (Eds.), Why people don't trust government (pp. 1-19). Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
  • Veenhoven, R. (1993). Happiness in nations : subjective appreciation of life in 56 nations, 1946-1992. Rotterdam, Netherlands: Erasmus University of Rotterdam, Department of Social Sciences, RISBO, Center for Socio-Cultural Transformation.