“How and Why does Social Class affect Political Trust? The role of Precarious Work and Political Efficacy”

Political trust is a central pillar of democracy, and its erosion in advanced democracies since the 1960s has motivated a large body of research, focusing on its macro-economic and individual socio-demographic determinants. Yet, there is scarce attention on how social class affects political trust, and why. To address this gap, this paper connects social class to political trust through the mechanisms of labour market precarity and political efficacy, which impact several socio-economic outcomes. We use data from the European Social Survey (2014-2018, Rounds 7-9) for 32 countries, and rely on linear regressions with Country-Year Fixed Effects. Results indicate that there is a considerable social class gradient in political trust, with lower social classes trusting the political system considerably less than upper social classes (12% of a SD in dependent variable). Mediation analysis through Structural Equation Modelling and Karlson-Holm-Breen decomposition highlights that the impact of social class is almost completely mediated (87%) by the precarious work and political efficacy mechanisms. These results show that political trust is socially stratified by class in addition to established dimensions as education, and is shaped by labour market precarity and political efficacy, with potentially dire effects for democracies in the wake of economic crises.

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