NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Distrust and Political Turnover

Nathan Nunn, Nancy Qian, Jaya Wen

NBER Working Paper No. 24187
Issued in January 2018
NBER Program(s):Political Economy, Economic Fluctuations and Growth

We present findings that document one way in which a society's culture can affect political outcomes. Examining an annual panel of democratic countries over six decades, we show that severe economic downturns are more likely to cause political turnover in countries that have lower levels of generalized trust. The relationship is only found among democracies and for regular leader turnover, which suggests that the underlying mechanism works through leader accountability and the electoral process. Moreover, we find that the effects of trust on turnover are greatest during years with regularly-scheduled elections, and within democracies with a parliamentary system, a fully free media, and greater stability. The estimates suggest that generalized trust affects political institutions by influencing the extent to which citizens attribute economic downturns to the mistakes of politicians.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24187

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