Comparative European Politics

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 400–422 | Cite as

Political Trust, Satisfaction and Voter Turnout

  • Kimmo Grönlund
  • Maija Setälä


This article studies how citizens’ evaluations of the political system and its actors affect their propensity to vote. Based on the earlier theoretical and empirical research, we analyse the concepts of political trust and satisfaction that are often used in survey research. We argue that political trust has to do with the normative expectations towards political institutions and actors, whereas satisfaction may be regarded as an indicator of attitudes to policy outputs. Furthermore, we differentiate between attitudes to democratic system on the one hand and political actors on the other hand, because in representative democracies it should be possible to replace incumbent politicians at elections. We hypothesize that trust in parliament and satisfaction with democracy increase turnout, whereas trust in politicians has a smaller impact on turnout, and satisfaction with the incumbent government does not affect turnout at all. The empirical evidence is based on the first round of the European Social Survey, which was collected simultaneously in 22 countries in 2002–2003. Our analysis confirms that trust in parliament has a positive impact on turnout, and also satisfaction with democracy increases it. These effects are especially high when aggregated at a country level and when hard data on turnout are used. At the individual level, in particular trust in parliament increases the likelihood of voting.


political trust satisfaction democracy voter turnout 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan Ltd 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kimmo Grönlund
    • 1
  • Maija Setälä
    • 2
  1. 1.Social Science Research Institute, Åbo Akademi UniversityVasaFinland
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of TurkuFIN-20014 TurkuFinland

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