The Berlin Republic: German Unification and a Decade of Changes

By Winand Gellner; John D. Robertson | Go to book overview

Trust in Democratic Institutions in Germany: Theory and Evidence Ten Years After Unification

ROBERT ROHRSCHNEIDER and

RÜDIGER SCHMITT-BECK

In their investigation of the political cultures of five nations in the late 1950s, Almond and Verba argue that the stability of political systems is increased if they are based on a reservoir of good will among citizens. 1 This presumably helps regimes to weather times of poor performance. To democratise a society thus not only requires the establishment of democratic rules but also that citizens agree with the general values upon which a framework is based. Moreover, citizens ideally believe that political institutions and incumbents do not ignore their interests, and do not abuse their privileged positions of power.

These insights are behind this article. We examine Germans' confidence in the core institutions of the democratic state and the rule of law a decade into Germany's unification: the federal government, the national parliament, the constitutional court, and the legal system. These are familiar institutions to most citizens in the West because most West Germans experienced only one political order-the democratic regime established by Germany's constitution (the Basic Law). In contrast, most East Germans have lived under at least two regimes. The development of East Germans' trust in these institutions thus constitutes an important component of democratic consolidation in East Germany. We therefore begin by describing the development of East and West Germans' confidence in core institutions of the German polity between 1984 and 2000.

Beyond this descriptive goal, our theoretical interests lead us to test the predictive power of three models of institutional trust. First, is confidence in institutions rooted in individual predispositions, especially political values? 2 Second, is institutional trust mainly rooted in the system's perceived performance? Third, is institutional trust rooted in a public's social capital generated through inter-personal relationships? By examining the empirical validity of these models in Eastern and Western Germany, we not only test the predictive power of each model at the micro

Robert Rohrschneider, Indiana University; Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck, Center for Survey Research and Methodology (ZUMA)

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