Political Trust and Sophistication: Taking Measurement Seriously

Sedef Turper*, Kees Aarts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)
144 Downloads (Pure)


Political trust is an important indicator of political legitimacy. Hence, seemingly decreasing levels of political trust in Western democracies have stimulated a growing body of research on the causes and consequences of political trust. However, the neglect of potential measurement problems of political trust raises doubts about the findings of earlier studies. The current study revisits the measurement of political trust and re-examines the relationship between political trust and sophistication in the Netherlands by utilizing European Social Survey (ESS) data across five time points and four-wave panel data from the Panel Component of ESS. Our findings illustrate that high and low political sophistication groups display different levels of political trust even when measurement characteristics of political trust are taken into consideration. However, the relationship between political sophistication and political trust is weaker than it is often suggested by earlier research. Our findings also provide partial support for the argument that the gap between sophistication groups is widening over time. Furthermore, we demonstrate that, although the between-method differences between the latent means and the composite score means of political trust for high- and low sophistication groups are relatively minor, it is important to analyze the measurement characteristics of the political trust construct.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-434
Number of pages20
JournalSocial indicators research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Diploma democracy
  • Measurement invariance
  • Political sophistication
  • Political trust
  • The Netherlands


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