Democratic Innovation in Times of Crisis: Exploring Changes in Social and Political Trust

Paper by Martin Karlsson, Joachim Åström and Magnus Adenskog: “The Estonian Citizens’ Assembly (ECA) was initiated in late 2012 as a direct consequence of a legitimacy crisis of Estonian political parties and representative institutions. The spark igniting this crisis was the unraveling of a scheme of illegal party financing. The response from governmental institutions took the form of a democratic innovation involving public crowd‐sourcing and deliberative mini‐publics. This study reports on a survey among the participants in the online crowd‐sourcing process of the ECA ( = 847). The study examines how this democratic innovation influenced participants’ social and political trust as well as the impact of participants’ predispositions and level of satisfaction with the ECA on changes in trust. We find that participants that had positive predispositions and who were satisfied with the ECA were more likely to gain trust. Furthermore, we also find that the participants, in general, became more distrustful of political institutions, while their participation fostered increased social trust. This outcome differs from the intentions of the Estonian institutions which organized the ECA and sheds new light on the role of democratic innovations in the context of legitimacy crises. This is an important step forward in the scholarly understanding of the relationship between democratic innovation and trust….(More)”.