How and why is the COVID-19 crisis impacting trust in institutions? A two-wave longitudinal study in Italy
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Using a quota panel of the adult Italian population (N = 1,192), we conducted a two-wave longitudinal study to analyse how and why the COVID-19 crisis affected Italians’ trust in institutions. Between May-June 2019 (before COVID-19) and April 2020 (the peak of the pandemic), trust in political institutions (political parties, parliament, and local administrations) and in super partes national institutions (the President of the Republic, the judiciary, and the police) increased, whereas trust in international institutions (the European Union and the United Nations) decreased. A mediation model showed that anxiety and collective angst were positively associated with seeking information about COVID-19 from institutional and relational sources. In turn, seeking information from institutional sources further increased trust in institutions, whereas seeking information from social media and friends did not. The same pattern held for trust in epistemic authorities (the national health care system, civil protection and scientists), which was measured only in the second wave. These results suggest that it is extremely important to pay attention to public communication strategies, as they play a crucial role in transforming individual and collective distress in times of crisis into trust in institutions, even net of the effect of information from relational sources. The strengths and limitations of the study are discussed, and directions for possible future research are suggested.
- institutional trust
- information search