Bridging the ideological divide: Trust and support for Social Security Privatization

Thomas J. Rudolph, Elizabeth Popp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using a pair of national surveys, this article analyzes the individual-level sources of public support for Social Security privatization. Given the inherent risks associated with privatization, we argue that the political trust heuristic affords untapped theoretical leverage in explaining public attitudes toward privatization. We find that, among certain individuals, political trust plays an instrumental role in structuring privatization preferences. Political trust increases support for privatization, but only among liberals. This heterogeneity in trust's impact is best explained, we argue, by the unbalanced ideological costs imposed by the potential privatization of Social Security. Among liberals, embracing privatization requires the sacrifice of core values, thereby making political trust a potent consideration. Political trust is inconsequential among conservatives because supporting privatization requires no comparable sacrifice for them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-351
Number of pages21
JournalPolitical Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • Ideology
  • Political trust
  • Privatization
  • Social security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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