From OECD Insights:
Is trust between people and their governments crumbling? What the great philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau called the social contract, whereby free citizens voluntarily agree to concede authority to the state in their own interest, could be in question. The OECD’s How’s Life? 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries say they trust their government. In 2006, this figure was around 42%. Why is there such a “disconnect” between citizens and their elected representatives?
The 2008 crisis is often blamed and could well be a factor. Indeed, trust has fallen by more than 15 percentage points in Greece, Portugal, and Spain–some of the OECD countries hardest hit by the crisis. They have also have seen the largest falls (or smallest growth) in household income and earnings since 2005, as well as some of the largest increases in long-term unemployment. By contrast, in Germany, Poland, and Slovak Republic, which are some of the countries where trust has increased the most, the average resident is generally better off than they were in 2005.
Nevertheless, the trust issue goes beyond the Great Recession and there is more to it than simple economics. In the US, where opinion polls measuring confidence in federal government go back to the late 1950s, trust has been consistently falling over the long term.
There may be other sources for the disconnect between citizens and their government.How’s Life? shows that the political class does not always reflect the people it serves. In the 11 OECD countries for which data is available, manual, agricultural and service workers make up 44% of the working population, but only 13% of legislators. Politicians are much more likely to have had a professional or senior management career. Not surprisingly, people might feel politicians are out of touch with their daily lives and unable to understand their basic struggles, from the cost of living to their need for quality public services. Additionally, How’s Life? finds that more than half of OECD residents consider corruption to be widespread in their government....MORE