The origins and consequences of public trust in government: A time series analysis

Virginia A. Chanley, Thomas J. Rudolph, Wendy M. Rahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study of citizens' trust in the national government has been primarily individual-level, cross-sectional analysis. In the current research, we develop a quarterly time series measure of trust in the U.S. national government from 1980 to 1997 and conduct the first multivariate time series examination of public trust in government. We find that negative perceptions of the economy, scandals associated with Congress, and increasing public concern about crime each lead to declining public trust in government. Declining trust in government in turn leads to less positive evaluations of Congress and reduced support for government action to address a range of domestic policy concerns. These results provide new evidence of the influence of public concern about crime and the centrality of Congress in understanding public evaluations of the national government and new evidence of how declining levels of trust in government may influence elections and domestic policy making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-256
Number of pages18
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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