Measuring Trust in Governments and Democratic Quality


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Presentation by Marco Mira d’Ercole at the OECD Workshop on “Joint Learning for an OECD Trust Strategy” on 14 October 2013. Mr. Mira d'Ercole discusses the interest and importance of trust, how trust should be measured and trust's broader relationship with the quality of democratic institutions.

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Measuring Trust in Governments and Democratic Quality

  1. 1. MEASURING TRUST IN GOVERNMENTS AND DEMOCRATIC QUALITY Marco Mira d’Ercole Household Statistics and Progress Measurement OECD Statistics Directorate OECD Workshop “Joint Learning for an OECD Trust Strategy” 14 October 2013
  2. 2. Step back from evidence to ask: A. Why are statisticians (in OECD and beyond) interested in trust in governments? B. Why is trust in government “substantially” important? C. How should trust in government be measured? D. Is trust in governments a stand-alone issue or part of broader agenda (quality of democratic institutions)? 2
  3. 3. A. Why our (STD) interest? (1) • Context: 50th OECD anniversary (“better policies for better lives”), beyond-GDP discussions (Stiglitz et al. 2009), OECD Global Project • In 2011, OECD Better Life Initiative: – How’s Life? bi-annual report, analysis and comparative reporting, based on indicator set developed in consultation with NSOs (CSTAT), next issue: Nov. 2013 – Your Better Life Index: interactive tool allowing users to construct composite measure, based on their own views on the importance of different life dimensions. Available for 34 OECD countries, Brazil and Russian Federation 3
  4. 4. A. The BLI well-being framework Main features  People rather than the economic system  Multi-dimensional Both averages and inequalities  Both today and tomorrow Indicators for “Civic Engagement and Governance” Headline: Voter turnout (IDEA); Consultation on rule making (GOV) Secondary: Trust in government (GWP), Participation political activities (ESS) 4
  5. 5. 2. Why is trust in government ‘substantially’ important? • It says something important about “what’s wrong with governments” from the perspective of citizens • It says something not about the the machinery of governments but on what it delivers • Trust is neither good in itself (“don’t talk to strangers”) nor absolute and unconditional; it matters as it allows collective action (i.e. form of social capital) • Trust takes time to build but is easily lost 5
  6. 6. 3. How should trust in government be measured? • What is trust? Expectation that another party will act in one’s interest • How is trust in governments measured? Mostly through un-official surveys, based on catch-all questions referring to government as a whole or subset of institutions • How should trust be measured? Ideally, through questions of the type “A trust B to do X” (Russell Hardin) – A needs to be disaggregated by a range of socio-economic and demographic characteristics (large samples typically needed) – B needs to specify institutions considered (e.g. public or private), their functions (e.g. judiciary, legislative, executive), geographical level (regional, central, local), incumbent or more – X needs to specify the type of action expected from B (e.g. doing what is good for ordinary people versus what is good for banks, taking account of long-term effect of policies, etc.) • In practice, we don’t know which specific questions are the most relevant,; this will take some empirical work to figure out 6
  7. 7. 4. Broader measurement agenda (1) Trust in governance as part of broader agenda on measuring quality of democratic institutions • Quality of democratic institutions traditionally perceived as issue for developing and transition countries, rather than OECD ones: the crisis has changed this!! • Most existing measures on governance are the results of either expert assessments or non-official surveys (GWP, WVS, European Social Surveys, Latino-barometro) • Governance statistics are new field for statistical community, but strong demands to invest more in this direction (MAP, governance cluster within post-2015 discussion, ESCAP regional plan) • Some measurement initiatives already ongoing: pilots on “democratic governance” and “peace and security” developed by Statistical Division of African Union, currently tested in 5 countries 7
  8. 8. 4. Broader measurement agenda (2) • Most measurement framework on governance focus on how “systems” work (insiders’ view), not on what they deliver • Systems typically analysed by looking at separate dimensions and sub-dimensions, e.g. Polity IV, Bertelsman Transformation Index; analogies and differences between different frameworks • Common problem: democratic institutions “work” in different ways various countries (e.g. turn-out in general elections versus singleissue referenda in Switzerland), can’t be ranked as “better” or “worse”  In all cases: they provide a partial perspective, that ignores outcomes for people (basic insight from “trust” angle) 8
  9. 9. 4. Broader measurement agenda (3) Way forward: need broader conceptual and statistical framework. Possible criteria (as put forward by Stein Ringen, What democracy is for?) • • • • • Units of observation: democracy is good for what it delivers to people Assess both the “potential” of institutions to deliver and their final “outcomes” from the perspective of people Potential (system perspective): e.g. Functioning of government machinery, balance of flexibility and accountability, role of money in politics and government (campaign financing, lobbying, corruption) Outcomes (individual): e.g. protecting rights, securing freedoms, building people’s trust that decisions are taken for the public good. Government outcome also matter instrumentally (they have a significant effect of people’s SWB)., and this extends to ‘procedural’ elements (e.g. Having option to participate in referendum in SWZ) Context: self-interest of public officials versus norms of civic virtue. Civic virtue is enhanced by citizens’ public concerns and participation in politics (role of education). Measuring governance and political participation need to proceed together 9
  10. 10. Conclusions • Trust in governments matters, it changes how we think about institutional performance (outcomes for people) • Restoring trust in governments requires both better measures and better understanding of drivers: the two need to proceed together, based on broader understanding of democratic quality • One step towards that goal (in measurement field): technical workshop bringing together different measurement perspectives (fall 2014), feeding into 5th OECD Forum on “Statistics, Knowledge and Policies”, Mexico City, October 2015 10