The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is announcing £3.5 million of funding for two large research projects on Trust and Global Governance. These projects will run for between three and four years and commenced on 1 March 2019.

The research projects are:

  • Trust and Trustworthiness in National and Global Governance. Principal Investigator: Professor Will Jennings, University of Southampton
     
  • Inequality and Governance in Unstable Democracies: The Mediating Role of Trust. Principal Investigator: Professor Patricia Justino, Institute of Development Studies

Professor Jennings’ project plans to advance new theories and evidence from countries worldwide designed to address three issues: what drives public trust in governance around the world, under what conditions do critical citizens seek to ‘trust but verify’ and what can be done to strengthen the optimal level of trust? He will work with Professor Pippa Norris from Harvard University and the University of Sydney as well as Professor Gerry Stoker from the University of Southampton and the University of Canberra.

Professor Will Jennings said: “Many say that politics is broken. The erosion of political trust in national and global institutions poses a major challenge to many states and to the global order. Our project will explore how and when citizens’ trust in political institutions reflects their actual performance – and what leads citizens to be cynical or naïve in their beliefs. It will also investigate how trust differs between places – within countries – in particular the degree to which citizens in outlying towns and rural areas are more distrusting of political elites.”

Professor Justino’s project aims to explore how trust mediates the relationship between inequality and governance in settings where democratic institutions may be unstable or under threat. 

The project is organised around three thematic areas: how trust within and between social groups  towards governance institutions emerges in contexts of rising inequality; how trust in unequal societies shapes governance outcomes through factors such as political behaviour and social mobilisation; and the manner in which changes to these factors can sometimes result in inclusive governance outcomes and the breakdown of governance in others. These areas will incorporate detailed theoretical and empirical analyses at the subnational level in four countries -Colombia, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Spain- affected by rising inequalities and characterised by unstable or strained democratic institutions.

Professor Patricia Justino, Cluster Leader of the Conflict and Violence Cluster at the Institute of Development Studies said: “Understanding the consequences of global rises in inequality on governance regimes is critical if we are to achieve inclusive and secure societies for all. IDS is delighted to lead this programme of work to provide vital new evidence on how trust shapes trajectories of governance in unequal and unstable democracies. We're very much looking forward to working with our programme partners to ensure ESRC-funded research that is truly interdisciplinary, is underpinned by strong international partnerships, and that results in knowledge that contributes to a more equal and secure world.”

These grants will provide a major stimulus for developments in the social sciences and have the potential to produce significant economic and societal impact through their findings around the governance of liberal democracies.

Professor Alison Park, Director of Research at ESRC said: “ESRC is pleased to be funding these two important research projects which focus upon improving our understanding of trust in agencies of governance (local, national or global) and in our fellow citizens. Both involve international comparisons to shed new light on what factors explain trust and how this is changing over time. Democracies across the world are facing a variety of old and new challenges; this novel and exciting research will allow social scientists to approach important questions about trust and trustworthiness from a fresh perspective."