A scandal effect? Local scandals and political trust

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Caroline Close with Jérémy Dodeigne, Sofie Hennau and Min Reuchamps
Palgrave Macmillan
Acta Politica


Scandals that hit political institutions and their actors are likely to contribute to lowering political trust. However, few studies examine the accuracy of such relationship at the local level. This article aims to contribute to the field by assessing the impact of local scandals on trust in local government and the mayor in the context of a federal state, Belgium. The research relies on an original dataset that includes a selection of municipalities that were hit by a scandal and of municipalities that were not in the running-up of the 2018 local elections. Our findings suggest the existence of a ‘scandal effect’ on voters’ trust in local government and mayor. First, trust in local institutions appears significantly lower in municipalities that were hit by a scandal. Second, the effect of scandals at the individual level appears to be reinforced by voters’ perception of trustworthiness of local politicians: scandals more significantly affect trust in local government among voters who evaluate negatively local politicians.