Institutional trust, civic engagement, government dysfunction, government performance, South Africa, structural equation modeling


The importance of institutional trust and its key determinants have been widely acknowledged in developed countries. However, in developing countries, where institutional trust has not been well established, its structural causes have not received adequate research emphasis. The aims of our study are: (1) to examine the direct effect of civic engagement on institutional trust; and (2) to examine the mediating effects of government dysfunction and government performance on the relationship between civic engagement and institutional trust. We conducted a structural equation modeling (SEM) analysis using data from the 2004 Afrobarometer Round 2.5 survey in South Africa (N = 2,400). We found a positive direct effect of civic engagement on institutional trust and indirect effects of civic engagement on institutional trust, mediated by government dysfunction and government performance, both individually and sequentially. Findings suggest that the development and implementation of policies enhancing civic engagement and good governance are needed to increase institutional trust. South Africa, a country with over 20 years of democracy, is on the path to enhancing civic engagement and building institutional trust. These goals can be achieved through building a society in which government is based on democratic values and civil society.

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