Growing Inequality in the Levels of Political Trust
Using a combination of data from the Norwegian Citizen Panel and other sources, researchers at the Institute for Social Research (ISR) have analyzed the development of Norwegian citizens’ levels of trust in politicians since 2000. The key findings of the project, which was ordered by the Ministry of Local Government and Modernization, were presented by ISR’s Jo Saglie and Signe Bock Segaard in the national newspaper Aftenposten.
The project focuses on political trust at the local level since, the authors note, we live our lives locally. In line with international trends, they find a general decrease in the level of trust in politicians during the last decade. However, the authors stress that this decline must be understood in the context of the historically high levels of trust that followed the 2011 terrorist attack on Oslo and Utøya, which led to a strengthened sense of community among the Norwegian population. Moreover, they note that the growing levels of distrust have not produced support for anti-democratic movements that operate outside established political processes. Although the 2019 local election was characterized by protest movements, these all operated well within the boundaries of established institutions.
Still, there are reasons for concern. The decline in political trust has been particularly strong in small municipalities, signifying a growing cleavage between rural areas and the central powers in Oslo. Furthermore, the decrease in trust has been greater amongst those who already distrust politicians, such as the less educated. Accordingly, the authors see a tendency towards greater inequality in the levels of political trust, which may lead to certain groups feeling alienated from the political system.