Comparative European Politics

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 620–648 | Cite as

Political distrust amidst The Great Recession: The mitigating effect of welfare state effort

  • Atle HaugsgjerdEmail author
Original Article


The economic crisis that erupted in Europe in 2008 has not only caused economic grievances, but hurt citizens’ trust in their national political system. By now, most research attributes this loss in political trust to governments’ failing economic achievements. This article considers if and to what extent the drop in political trust amidst The Great Recession also was connected to governments’ welfare state effort. Combining individual and country-level data in a comparative multilevel research design, this paper overall finds that in cases of sudden and severe performance setbacks for which accountability is hard to assign, trust in democratic institutions may suffer. However, political trust seems to be especially susceptible to economic performance setbacks in countries with relatively low levels of welfare state effort, suggesting that governments might blunt some of the pain of an economic crisis by providing generous welfare state services to those in need.


political trust economic crises The Great Recession welfare state effort 



For comments and suggestions, I thank participants at seminars at Institute for Social Research, Oslo, and Leuven-Montreal Winter School on Elections and Voting Behaviour 2015. In addition, I am grateful for comments from Rune Karlsen, Staffan Kumlin, Ann-Kristin Kölln, Bernt Aardal and two anonymous reviewers to various versions of this article.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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