Authoritarian Orientations and Political Trust in East Asian Societies

Abstract

In mainstream political science literature, two main theoretical perspectives on the origins of political trust predominate: institutional theory which argues that political trust is generated from democratic institutions and cultural theory which argues that political trust is rooted in historical-cultural factors such as social trust. However, the influence of other social values, such as authoritarian orientations, has received little attention in the extant literature. This article investigates the determinants of political trust in 13 East Asian societies with a special emphasis on authoritarian orientations. The evidence from our empirical study suggests that authoritarian orientations are an independent cultural source of political trust in these societies.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In this paper, all East and Southeast Asian countries or administrative regions are called East Asian societies for the sake of convenience.

  2. 2.

    The definition is from Oxford Dictionaries, available at http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/.

  3. 3.

    The Confucian cultural zone generally refers to societies that have been culturally influenced by the philosophy of Confucius, specifically Greater China, Korea, Japan, Singapore, and Vietnam.

  4. 4.

    The survey conducted in Hong Kong does not include information on trust in the police. Thus, for the cross-society comparison purpose, we do not include trust in the police in the measurement for political trust.

  5. 5.

    For more detailed information on this data set, please see http://www.asianbarometer.org.

  6. 6.

    The original data set contains 32,015 observations. We only keep the observations which have no missing data with regard to the respondent’s gender, age, urban residence, and country, making 144 (0.4 %) observations dropped.

  7. 7.

    The information for the quality of data is also available at the site www.asianbarometer.org.

  8. 8.

    We performed the principal component factor analysis to generate the indices of political trust and authoritarian orientations. The seven measures of political trust are strongly correlated; the correlation coefficients range from 0.40 to 0.75, with the mean at 0.51. Moreover, the single factor generated via a principal component analysis accounts for 58 % of total variance of seven measures, all of which have loadings larger than 0.67 on this dimension. Similarly, the correlation coefficients between each two of the four measures of authoritarian orientations range from 0.1 to 0.38, with the mean at 0.22. The principal component analysis of the four measures of authoritarian orientations generate a single factor, which accounts for 43 % of the total variance, and the loading on each measure ranges from 0.38 to 0.75 and is 0.63 on average.

  9. 9.

    We chose corruption in local government rather than national government because there are many more missing values in the latter variable. This may be due to a lack of knowledge of corruption at higher-level governmental institutions.

  10. 10.

    To make the measures consistent across two survey waves, the continuous age was converted to 12 age groups, which were still treated as a continuous variable for simplicity, and the continuous schooling years were converted to ordinal educational degrees.

  11. 11.

    In another separate test not reported here, we deleted Hong Kong from the full sample, given that Hong Kong is a heterogeneous unit here; the national government refers to the central government of China (People’s Republic of China), while the military refers to the Liberation Army. Though a part of People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong has considerable autonomy and its citizens may not have so many interactions with the central government as in other countries. The main findings still held.

  12. 12.

    Age refers to the age group variable here. The turning point of the age group is 5 or 6 (−[−0.021 / (2 × 0.002)]), which refers to the age interval from 35 to 44.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the editor and reviewers for their helpful suggestions. Financial support came from the Humanities and Social Science Programme 2013 of Ministry of Education, China (project number: 13JYA630063) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, China (project number: NKZXA1211). We also appreciate the Asian Barometer Project Office (www.asianbarometer.org) for providing data collected by the Asian Barometer Project, which was co-directed by Professors Fu Hu and Yun-han Chu and received major funding support from Taiwan’s Ministry of Education, Academia Sinica and National Taiwan University. The Asian Barometer Project Office is solely responsible for the data distribution. The views expressed herein are the authors' own and we alone are responsible for any remaining errors.

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Ma, D., Yang, F. Authoritarian Orientations and Political Trust in East Asian Societies. East Asia 31, 323–341 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12140-014-9217-z

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Keywords

  • Political trust
  • Origins
  • Authoritarian orientations
  • East Asia