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Ryan E Carlin, "What's not to trust? Rubrics of political party trustworthiness in Chile and Argentina," Party Politics, 20 (January 2014), 63-77. [Available at ]

First paragraph:
Political parties are the least trusted institutions in the world (Inglehart et al., 2004), but interpreting the shockingly low levels registered by standard party trust survey measures is difficult for three reasons. First, assessing their validity is impossible because they are not grounded in an a priori conceptualization of party trust or distrust. As Sartori says, '[w]e cannot measure unless we know first what it is that we are measuring' (1970: 1038). Second, extant measures are silent about citizens' criteria of party trustworthiness. So citizens with the same party trust scores may hold parties to different standards. Third, responses to survey measures of party trust have a lower bound ('None')1 which truncates the continuum between trust and distrust, and lumps 'active' distrust in with 'a lack of' trust (Cook and Gronke, 2005). If distrust and lack of trust are indeed conceptually distinct (Ullmann-Margalit, 2004), their sources and implications could diverge considerably. In short, measurement problems impede descriptive inference about the meanings and levels of party trust and distrust and causal inference about their variation over time and space.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Percentage Mentioning Criteria for Trust in Public Institutions.
Figure 1. Q-sort Distribution, 24 items.
Table 2. Rubrics of Party Trustworthiness in Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina: Dimensions & Criteria.
Table 3. Rubrics of Party Trustworthiness in Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina: Common and Divergent Criteria.
Table 4. Perceived Lack of Rubric-Based Party Trustworthiness & Stated Party Trust.

Last Paragraph:
Refining the conceptualization, logic and measurement of party trust and distrust is critical to advancing cultural and behavioural theories of democratic stability and quality. The present study takes some modest steps in this direction by proposing conceptualizations party trust and distrust, models of party trustworthiness rubrics and related measures of party trust/distrust. It also suggests ways survey researchers might harness the insights of this study to create better measures of trust in political parties on nationally representative data. Competing measurement approaches will ultimately be judged by their ability to probe the theoretical linkages between party trust and the behaviours and attitudes that either buttress democracy or hasten its erosion. Fostering such competition is central to furthering our cognitive and psychological understandings of political parties and liberal democracy.

Last updated March 2014