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Can Warm Behavior Mitigate the Negative Effect of Unfavorable Governmental Decisions on Citizens’ Trust?

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For decades, scholars have discussed how to build greater citizen trust in government. I hypothesize that to increase trust in government, we should consider whether decisions made in bureaucrat-citizen encounters (e.g. applications for welfare benefits) are favorable to citizens. Building on insights from social psychology, I argue that in cases where citizens are presented with unfavorable decisions (e.g. rejection of applications), public employees can mitigate the negative impact on trust in government by appearing warm and friendly in the decision-making process. The argument is tested in a large-scale randomized survey experiment on a representative sample of Danish citizens, where I manipulate decision favorability and warmth. The findings reveal that outcome favorability and warmth strongly influence citizens' trust in government.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Political Science
Pages (from-to)62-75
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2023

    Research areas

  • Warmth, citizen-state encounter, political trust, survey experiment, trust in government

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