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Can We Trust Measures of Political Trust? Assessing Measurement Equivalence in Diverse Regime Types

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)963-984
Number of pages22
Issue number3
Accepted/In press22 Jun 2016
Published1 Sep 2017

King's Authors


Do standard “trust in government” survey questions deliver measures which are reliable and equivalent in meaning across diverse regime types? I test for the measurement equivalence of political trust in a sample of 35 former Soviet and European countries using the 2010 Life in Transition Survey II conducted by the World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Employing multiple group confirmatory factor analysis, I find that trust perceptions in central political institutions differ from (1) trust in regional and local political institutions, (2) trust in protective institutions like the armed forces and police and (3) trust in order institutions like the courts and police. Four measurement models achieve partial metric invariance and two reach partial scalar invariance in most countries, allowing for comparisons of correlates using latent factors from each model. I also found some clustering of measurement error and variation in the dimensionality of political trust between democratic and autocratic portions of the sample. On some measurement parameters, therefore, respondents in diverse cultures and regime types do not have equivalent understandings of political trust. The findings offer both optimism and a note of caution for researchers using political trust measures in cross-regime contexts.

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