CORDIS - EU research results

Political Trust in Crisis: Determinants and Solutions

Project description

The drivers of political discontent

Public confidence in political institutions is declining and Europeans are leaning more and more towards populism. While this is not a new phenomenon, the main drivers of political discontent are not well understood. The ERC-funded POLTRUSTLAB project will collect the most detailed individual-level dataset on perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes. It will use survey experiments to uncover the modes of reasoning that generate a link between economic shocks and political discontent. This novel methodology will study the fundamental drivers of political discontent, exploring policy responses of traditional parties and populist narratives as potential mediating factors. It will also investigate how trust in the political system can be regained.


In the last years, the world has experienced an unprecedented increase in the fraction of people that have lost their confidence in political institutions and have started supporting populist candidates. While a rapidly growing literature in social sciences has investigated this phenomenon, current research methodologies face important limitations. Existing studies have limited measures of political attitudes and provide little evidence on the mechanisms behind the increase in distrust. In this project, I propose a radically different approach to tackle this question. I plan to conduct extensive data collection through online surveys in multiple countries and periods. I will combine this novel data with extensive use of survey experiments and quasi-experimental approaches. This methodology has the potential to significantly expand the research frontier in the study of political discontent. First, I plan to collect the most detailed individual-level panel dataset on perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes. Second, the use of survey experiments provides a unique toolkit uncover the ?mental model? of individuals (i.e. their modes of reasoning that generate a link between a shock and ultimate political discontent). This novel methodology will be applied to answer two main questions: (1) What are the fundamental drivers of political discontent? I will examine the effects of a number of different economic and cultural shocks on discontent and distrust. In the uncovering of the mechanisms, I will pay special attention two key mediating factors: the policy response to shocks of traditional parties and the exposure to populist and nativist narratives. The second research question is: (2) How can trust in the political system be regained? Using a number of experimental and quasi-experimental designs, I will investigate whether exposure to safety-net policies can help individuals to regain trust in the political system.

Fields of science

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 836 250,00
28014 Madrid

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The organization defined itself as SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) at the time the Grant Agreement was signed.

Comunidad de Madrid Comunidad de Madrid Madrid
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 1 836 250,00

Beneficiaries (1)