Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I even say who wrote them. If you have more recent summaries to add to this collection, send them my way I guess. Sorry for the ads; they cover the costs of keeping this online.
Cook and Gronke. 2005. The skeptical American: Revisiting the meanings of trust in government and confidence in institutio. JOP 67:784-803.
Scholars have noted declining trust in NES and GSS results, and have concluded that Americans are increasingly distrustful and cynical about their government. But the NES and GSS only ask whether you trust the government's various institutions, not whether you distrust them. Thus, they cannot differentiate between skepticism and distrust. By using an improved survey, the authors show that Americans are more skeptical than distrustful--which might be altogether good for democracy.
In addition, the authors' trust/distrust scale is driven by different factors than the NES and GSS measures are. While all are driven by short-term forces to some extent, the NES and GSS are driven more so by them. On the other hand, the authors' trust/distrust scale is also influenced by more enduring personality traits (e.g. religiosity, interpersonal trust, interest in politics; see Table 1), suggesting that their scale picks up more enduring traits.
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