Type of Document Dissertation Author Boidi, María Fernanda Author's Email Address firstname.lastname@example.org URN etd-04012009-130141 Title The Missing Connection: Trust in Legislatures in Latin America Degree PhD Department Political Science Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Mitchell A. Seligson Committee Chair Florence Faucher-King Committee Member Jonathan Hiskey Committee Member March J. Hetherington Committee Member Keywords
- Latin America
- public opinion
Date of Defense 2009-02-16 Availability unrestricted AbstractLegislatures are among the least trusted political institutions in the world; but they are the heart of liberal democracy: no legislatures, no democracy. How are democracies to survive and prosper if citizens distrust one of its bedrock institutions? With this preoccupation in mind, this dissertation relies on a multi-method approach to explore the determinants of trust in legislatures in 18 countries of Latin America, the region of the world where legislatures are trusted the least.
Across Latin America, legislative bodies vary in several ways: some are called “Asambleas”, others“Congresos”, and still others “Parlamentos;” in Central America they are unicameral, while in the Southern Cone they are all bicameral; their number of members ranges from 57 in Costa Rica to 599 in Brazil. Despite those differences, these legislatures share a key feature: the connection between citizens and their institutions of representation is largely absent; individuals trust their legislatures very little.
My research aims at explaining the reasons for this missing connection between citizens and their institutions of representation. Using the 2008 round of the AmericasBarometer survey carried out by the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) and qualitative research in Ecuador and Uruguay, I argue trust in legislatures is driven by citizens’ views of the processes that occur within the institution, the institution’s performance as perceived by citizens, the image of political parties that taints the views towards the legislatures they staff, and the features of the party systems existing in the countries.
The findings indicate that performance evaluation and political parties’ perceived responsiveness are the main forces driving trust in legislatures. In contrast with previous research pointing to citizens’ paradoxical rejection of congressional democratic processes as the source of disregard for the institution, views of these processes actually enhance support for legislatures; trust in the parliament only decreases when these processes are perceived as taken to their extreme. The impact of these individual-level variables remains unchanged when explored vis-à-vis the effects of the partisan context, although this context also exerts influence upon the levels of trust.
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