Dotti Sani, G.M. and Magistro, B. (2016) Increasingly unequal? The economic crisis, social inequalities and trust in the European Parliament in 20 European countries. European Journal of Political Research 55(2): 246-264.
The 2008/2009 economic crisis has been identified as an important element contributing to declining trust in institutions in Europe and worldwide. However, it is unclear whether this decline in trust is distributed homogenously among citizens or whether there are differences across social strata.This article applies multilevel models to six waves of European Social Survey (ESS) data to analyse changes in trust in the European Parliament (EP) from 2002 to 2012 in 20 European Union countries.Moreover, it investigates whether individuals with different socioeconomic backgrounds experienced different reductions in trust. The results indicate that trust in the EP declined the most in the peripheral European countries hit hardest by the economic crisis: Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Cyprus, Greece and Spain. Furthermore, the results suggest that the decline in trust was more pronounced among subjects with lower social status. The tightening of the link between social and political inequalities is especially preoccupying considering the importance of trust in institutions for citizens to actively participate in society, voice their needs and demand their place at the table. Hence, the worsening economic conditions, combined with declining levels of trust, are not only troublesome for the functioning of democracies as a whole, but they are also problematic at the individual level as they are likely to perpetuate the divide among subjects at different ends of the social ladder.