Trust and Democracy in Australia

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review


Australians should rightly be proud of their hard-won democratic traditions and freedoms, and the achievement of stable government which has delivered social and economic wellbeing for the country’s citizens. However, the findings presented in this chapter should give all democrats pause for thought. We find compelling evidence of an increasing trust divide between government and citizens reflected in the decline of democratic satisfaction; receding trust in politicians, political parties and other key institutions (especially media); and a lack of public confidence in the capacity of government to address public policy concerns. Australia is currently experiencing a culture shift from an allegiant to a divergent democratic culture (Dalton & Welzel 2014), with an increasing number of citizens searching for a new politics to represent their values and defend their material needs and aspirations for the future. This chapter draws on data derived from a national survey of 1021 Australians in July 2018 that sought to explore the relationship between trust in the political system and attitudes towards democracy. We understand political trust as a relational concept that is about ‘keeping promises and agreements’ (Hetherington 20015: 1). This is in keeping with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s definition of trust as ‘holding a positive perception about the actions of an individual or an organization’ (OECD 2017: 16). The survey questions were designed by the authors and included some questions that previously had been asked of similar samples in 2014 and 2016, allowing for time series analysis (see Evans, Halupka & Stoker 2014; Evans & Stoker 2016; Stoker et al. 2017).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFrom Turnbull to Morrison: The Trust Divide
EditorsMark Evans, Michelle Grattan, Brendan McCaffrie
PublisherMelbourne University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9780522876130
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2019


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