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Political Behavior

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 305–325 | Cite as

Investigating the Roots of Civic Morality: Trust, Social Capital, and Institutional Performance

  • Natalia Letki
Original Paper

Abstract

In the last decade considerable research in social sciences has focused on interpersonal trust, treating it as a remedy for most maladies modern democracies suffer from. Yet, if others act dishonestly, trust is turned into gullibility, thus mechanisms linking interpersonal trust with institutional success refer implicitly to honesty and civic morality. This paper investigates the roots of civic morality. It applies hierarchical models to data from 38 countries, and tests the individual, community and structural explanatory factors. The results of the analysis point to the relevance of an institutional dimension, both in the form of individuals’ perceptions as well as the quality of governance: confidence in political institutions and their objective quality are the strongest predictors of civic morality. At the same time, the findings show that the recently popular claims about the importance of social capital for citizens’ moral standards are largely unfounded.

Keywords

Social capital Social trust Civicness Civic morality Democracy Institutional performance Corruption Political trust Confidence in institutions Membership Legitimacy 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This paper benefited from comments by Christina W. Andrews, Geoff Evans, Christopher Garner, Sharon Gilad, Jane Green, Mark A. Kayser, Lauren McLaren, Bo Rothstein, Chris Wlezien and participants of the “Quality of Government: What It Is, How to Get It, Why It Matters” Conference, Göteborg, November 17–19, 2005. I would also like to thank the three anonymous Reviewers and the Editors for their insightful comments.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceCollegium CivitasWarsawPoland

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