Why People Turn to Institutions They Detest: Institutional Mistrust and Justice System Engagement in Uneven Democratic States

Lisa Hilbink, Valentina Salas, Janice K. Gallagher, Juliana Restrepo Sanín

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Does political mistrust lead to institutional disengagement? Much work in political science holds that trust matters for political participation, including recourse to the justice system. Scholars of judicial institutions, relying largely on survey research, argue that low trust decreases legal compliance and cooperation, threatening the rule of law. Legal consciousness and mobilization scholars, meanwhile, suggest that trust does not drive justice system engagement. However, their single-case study approach makes assessing the wider implications of their findings difficult. Based on an innovative comparative focus-group study in two uneven democratic states, Chile and Colombia, we show that trust is not the primary factor driving justice system engagement. Rather, people’s engagement decisions are shaped by their expectations and aspirations for their political system and by their politically constructed capacities for legal agency. Our study offers insights of relevance for analysts of various forms of political participation in uneven democratic states across the globe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-31
Number of pages29
JournalComparative Political Studies
Volume55
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was made possible by funding from the Human Rights Initiative of the University of Minnesota (IRB STUDY00000744) and the Initiative for Multi-Disciplinary Research Teams at Rutgers University-Newark (IRB 18-026M).

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to the focus group participants who gave generously of their time and shared personal and sometimes painful stories. The authors thank Bridget Marchesi, Isabel Arriagada, Monica Delgado, Jennifer Natoli, and Vania Villanueva for research assistance, and Bianet Castellanos, Christina Ewig, Elisabeth Jay Friedman, Yanilda González, Kathie Hendley, Jessica López-Lyman, Lindsay Mayka, Lisa Miller, Lorena Muñoz, and Whitney Taylor for helpful comments on previous drafts. We would also like to thank Professors Mary Gallagher (University of Michigan) and Daniel Brinks (The University of Texas at Austin) for serving as Comparative Political Studies guest editors for this article. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was made possible by funding from the Human Rights Initiative of the University of Minnesota (IRB STUDY00000744) and the Initiative for Multi-Disciplinary Research Teams at Rutgers University-Newark (IRB 18-026M).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.

Keywords

  • Latin American politics
  • law and society
  • qualitative methods
  • quality of democracy
  • social capital
  • trust

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