Trust and Citizens’ Evaluations of Promise Keeping by Governing Parties

Robert Thomson, Heinz Brandenburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The principle that parties should make policy commitments during election campaigns and fulfil those commitments if elected is central to the idea of promissory representation. This study examines citizens’ evaluations of promise keeping and breaking. We focus on two aspects of trust as explanations of citizens’ evaluations. When trust is defined in terms of mistrust, it implies that vigilant and well-informed citizens base their evaluations on what governments deliver. When trust is defined in terms of distrust, it implies that citizens use heuristic thinking when evaluating governing parties’ performance, regardless of what those parties do. Our evidence is from a survey experiment in the British Election Study, which asked respondents to evaluate whether governing parties fulfilled specific election pledges made during the previous election campaign. The findings indicate that both mistrust and distrust affect citizens’ evaluations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-266
Number of pages18
JournalPolitical Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • election pledges
  • public opinion
  • trust
  • political knowledge

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