Francesco Paolo Cerase

Trust in the relationships between citizens and public institutions

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Institutional Trust; Institutional Rules; Discretional Power; Effectiveness; Public Institutions.

Year after year, surveys data report that in Italy the citizens' 'trust in institutions' is declining. Once the attention is centred on public institutions, the questions raised are: what exactly do these data mean? Why for citizens who interact with these institutions to have more or less trust counts? How does this trust matter in determining the institutions' effectiveness? In addressing these questions, the discussion focuses on the way in which trust is related to two main characteristics of the relationships between citizens and public institutions: the way the rules embodied in the institutions count and the role played by the subjects called to implement them. In principle the content of these relationships is expected not to be the outcome of a negotiation but rather reflect the definite enforcement of a given set of rules. The actual content, however, deviates from this expectation, if for no other reason, because not all individual actors grant the same legitimacy to the rules and because the implementation of the rules is subject both to the competence and to the intentions of the public officials involved - more to the point, to the way in which any public official plays out the discretionary power he/she has in administering the institutional rules. In this light - and here lies the suggestion for answering the questions raised above - trust becomes a main factor in explaining why a given deviation occurs, its possible management, and ultimately the effectiveness of public institutions.

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