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How Does Education Affect Political Trust?: An Analysis of Moderating Factors

Ugur-Cinar, Meral
Çınar, Süleyman Kürşat
This article aims to understand the correlates of political trust by delving into the multiple interactive effects of education in democratic states throughout the world. It asks whether education raises political trust by increasing the stakes of the citizens in the system and whether education diminishes trust as a result of being abler to evaluate the existence of corruption in a given country. It also taps into how post-materialism as an individual-level factor affects this equation by activating critical judgments toward political institutions. The findings show that, indeed, the effect of education on political trust is very context-dependent. Political trust and education are positively correlated in more meritocratic countries and negatively correlated in the more corrupt ones. Post-material values, combined with educational attainment, tend to lower political trust to a certain extent yet this effect is surpassed by the presence or absence of meritocracy or political corruption. We also find that the effect of education on political trust becomes more pronounced as the level of education increases, with university graduates being the most susceptible to the effects of meritocracy and corruption on their trust levels.