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Trust in the Local Administration: A Comparative Study between Capitals and Non-Capital Cities in Europe

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Often a distinction is made between interpersonal and institutional trust, as the former is defined in terms of encapsulated interests, that is the idea that somebody will take your interests into account. Scholars have argued that this cannot be applied to institutions and that generalized institutional trust is therefore not a meaningful concept. This article disputes this reasoning by distinguishing this kind of trust in the governance of capital cities from such trust in non-capital cities. It argues that it can be doubted especially for the local administration in capital cities that they predominantly have the interests of their residents in mind when making decisions. The resulting hypothesis that residents of capital cities have less trust in their local administration than residents of non-capital cities is tested and confirmed through a secondary analysis of Urban Audit data. The analysis shows a significant effect in the predicted direction, which remains strong when controlling for the satisfaction with public issues, the respective region, and poverty of the respondent. The conclusion is that citizens in municipalities do know whether or not local institutions have their interests in mind when making decisions, which makes institutional trust equally meaningful a concept as interpersonal trust.

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Sujets de la revue:
Social Sciences, Political Science, Local Government and Administration