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University of Nebraska Public Policy Center

Testing a Model of Institutional Confidence Across Branches of Government

Evidence showing the American public losing confidence in its government has been identified as one of the fundamental problems in society today. Social science has an opportunity to make important contributions to this problem by deepening understanding of public trust and confidence in government.

The primary goal of our research was to test a model of institutional confidence that focuses on individuals’ knowledge of and experiences with the institution. The project built upon the UNL research team’s previous studies, toward a long-term goal of developing a framework of institutional confidence that can be used to understand the public’s perceptions of government, specifically, and the way that people form attitudes toward public institutions, more broadly.

The project’s specific objective was to evaluate whether there are distinct, underlying factors in assessments of institutional confidence. Our tests were conducted in laboratory and field settings and examined attitudes toward a variety of institutions, such as those that regulate water resources, the courts, and city government.

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