Style Over Substance? The Effect of Perceptions of the Economy and Affect Toward the President on Trust in Government

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Virginia Tech


This study examines persons' trust in the federal government using data from the National Election Study for the presidential election years 1980 through 2000. I hypothesize that person's perceptions of the national economy's health and their affect toward the incumbent president are both positively correlated with their trust in the federal government. I also hypothesize that a person's level of affect toward the president is a stronger predictor of their trust in the federal government than persons' perceptions of the national economy's health. All of these hypotheses are supported in my findings. I also present a serendipitous finding that relates to political party culture. This study finds significant differences between Democrats and Republicans in the trust they afford the government via affect toward the president, suggesting a difference in how self-identified Democrats and Republicans view the president's role in government.



government, trust, partisan, economy, affect