Trust lost, trust regained? Trust, legitimacy and multilevel governance

Dominika K. Proszowska

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


In the European Union multilevel polity, the responsibility for managing socio-economic consequences of the crisis is shared between executive governments at subnational, national and EU levels. Against this backdrop, it is interesting to see how distribution of blame and praise in multilevel governance has been reflected in citizens’ trust. Based on 2008-2019 data from EU countries, this research shows that trust in EU, national and subnational governments differs regarding their (1) trends (negative, positive or stable) and (2) amplitudes of short-term fluctuations. It demonstrates that – contrary to the popular belief – there is no general decline in trust in EU democracies. Out of three types of trust, trust in national government is the most volatile (i.e. has the highest amplitude of short-term fluctuations), and trust in subnational government – the most resistant to changes. Furthermore, trust in multilevel governance reflects the way people distribute institutional praise and blame for changes in socio-economic conditions, i.e. reflects the way people attribute responsibility to European, national and subnational governments for different policy domains such as unemployment or public debt. These results demonstrate (1) that people distinguish between governments as trust objects at different tiers of governance and (2) political trust is resilient even when temporarily undermined by crisis. Short-term trust fluctuations have therefore little implication for the system’s legitimacy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLegitimacy Recovered? The Politics of European Union Legitimation
EditorsPeter Bursens, Christopher Lord, Dirk De Bièvre, Ramses Wessel
PublisherECPR Press
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • EU legitimacy
  • political trust
  • democratic legitimacy
  • economic crisis

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