Race and the Politics of Trust in the Age of Cynicism

Awarded Scholars:
Julie A. Dowling, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
G. Cristina Mora, University of California, Berkeley
Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz, Northwestern University
Project Date:
Oct 2020
Award Amount:

Trust in government is at an all-time low, and previous research demonstrates that economic recessions, increased immigration and racial diversity, and political polarization help explain the drop in government trust. While there have been many quantitative studies on the topic, qualitative research on the racial dimensions of trust in government is limited. Sociologists Julie Dowling, Cristina Mora and Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz will address this gap by conducting 240 in-depth interviews (via zoom) with 60 Latino, 60 White, 60 Black, and 60 Asian residents in the San Francisco Bay and Chicago areas. They will address these questions: How do racial/ethnic groups differentially perceive national government institutions and their efforts? How do they make sense of the concept of “trust” in relationship to local, state, and national governments? What factors contribute to these understandings and expectations of government? And how does immigration status, social marginalization, urban context, political ideology, and state activity mediate the relationship between race and political trust?  The interviews will complement previous state-wide surveys the researchers fielded in California and Illinois in Fall 2019 with a racially diverse sample of registered voters. They analyze responses to understand how trust varies by party affiliation, gender, race/ethnicity, and county of residence. The 2020 survey will allow the PIs to see how the COVID-19 pandemic may have differentially impacted political trust across groups. Early findings in California show that, even when controlling for income and education, Blacks display slightly lower levels of trust in the federal government than do Whites. Asians, however, display significantly higher levels of trust in the federal government than do any other group. However, the three minority groups display significantly higher levels of confidence in state government than Whites. The researchers to prepare a book manuscript.


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