Index: Trust in Institutions 2019

By Michelle Winowatan, Andrew J. Zahuranec, Andrew Young, Stefaan Verhulst

The Living Library Index – inspired by the Harper’s Index – provides important statistics and highlights global trends in governance innovation. This installment focuses on trust in institutions.

Please share any additional, illustrative statistics on open data, or other issues at the nexus of technology and governance, with us at

Global Trust in Public Institutions

Trust in Government

United States

  • Americans who say their democracy is working at least “somewhat well:” 58% – 2018
  • Number who believe sweeping changes to their government are needed: 61% – 2018
  • Percentage of Americans expressing faith in election system security: 45% – 2018
  • Percentage of Americans expressing an overarching trust in government: 40% – 2019
  • How Americans would rate the trustworthiness of Congress: 4.1 out of 10 – 2017
  • Number who have confidence elected officials act in the best interests of the public: 25% – 2018
  • Amount who trust the federal government to do what is right “just about always or most of the time”: 18% – 2017
  • Americans with trust and confidence in the federal government to handle domestic problems: 2 in 5 – 2018
    • International problems: 1 in 2 – 2018
  • US institution with highest amount of confidence to act in the best interests of the public: The Military (80%) – 2018
  • Most favorably viewed level of government: Local (67%) – 2018
  • Most favorably viewed federal agency: National Park Service (83% favorable) – 2018
  • Least favorable federal agency: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (47% unfavorable) – 2018

United Kingdom

  • Overall trust in government: 42% – 2019
    • Number who think the country is headed in the “wrong direction:” 7 in 10 – 2018
    • Those who have trust in politicians: 17% – 2018
    • Amount who feel unrepresented in politics: 61% – 2019
    • Amount who feel that their standard of living will get worse over the next year: Nearly 4 in 10 – 2019
  • Trust the national government handling of personal data:

European Union


Latin America


Trust in Media

  • Percentage of people around the world who trust the media: 47% – 2019
    • In the United Kingdom: 37% – 2019
    • In the United States: 48% – 2019
    • In China: 76% – 2019
  • Rating of news trustworthiness in the United States: 4.5 out of 10 – 2017
  • Number of citizens who trust the press across the European Union: Almost 1 in 2 – 2019
  • France: 3.9 out of 10 – 2019
  • Germany: 4.8 out of 10 – 2019
  • Italy: 3.8 out of 10 – 2019
  • Slovenia: 3.9 out of 10 – 2019
  • Percentage of European Union citizens who trust the radio: 59% – 2017
    • Television: 51% – 2017
    • The internet: 34% – 2017
    • Online social networks: 20% – 2017
  • EU citizens who do not actively participate in political discussions on social networks because they don’t trust online social networks: 3 in 10 – 2018
  • Those who are confident that the average person in the United Kingdom can tell real news from ‘fake news’: 3 in 10 – 2018

Trust in Business


Impact of a nudging intervention and factors associated with vegetable dish choice among European adolescents

Paper by Q. Dos Santos et al: “To test the impact of a nudge strategy (dish of the day strategy) and the factors associated with vegetable dish choice, upon food selection by European adolescents in a real foodservice setting.

A cross-sectional quasi-experimental study was implemented in restaurants in four European countries: Denmark, France, Italy and United Kingdom. In total, 360 individuals aged 12-19 years were allocated into control or intervention groups, and asked to select from meat-based, fish-based, or vegetable-based meals. All three dishes were identically presented in appearance (balls with similar size and weight) and with the same sauce (tomato sauce) and side dishes (pasta and salad). In the intervention condition, the vegetable-based option was presented as the “dish of the day” and numbers of dishes chosen by each group were compared using the Pearson chi-square test. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was run to assess associations between choice of vegetable-based dish and its potential associated factors (adherence to Mediterranean diet, food neophobia, attitudes towards nudging for vegetables, food choice questionnaire, human values scale, social norms and self-estimated health, country, gender and belonging to control or intervention groups). All analyses were run in SPSS 22.0.

The nudging strategy (dish of the day) did not show a difference on the choice of the vegetable-based option among adolescents tested (p = 0.80 for Denmark and France and p = 0.69 and p = 0.53 for Italy and UK, respectively). However, natural dimension of food choice questionnaire, social norms and attitudes towards vegetable nudging were all positively associated with the choice of the vegetable-based dish. Being male was negatively associated with choosing the vegetable-based dish.

The “dish of the day” strategy did not work under the study conditions. Choice of the vegetable-based dish was predicted by natural dimension, social norms, gender and attitudes towards vegetable nudging. An understanding of factors related to choosing vegetable based dishes is necessary for the development and implementation of public policy interventions aiming to increase the consumption of vegetables among adolescents….(More)”

Harnessing Digital Tools to Revitalize European Democracy

Article by Elisa Lironi: “…Information and communication technology (ICT) can be used to implement more participatory mechanisms and foster democratic processes. Often referred to as e-democracy, there is a large range of very different possibilities for online engagement, including e-initiatives, e-consultations, crowdsourcing, participatory budgeting, and e-voting. Many European countries have started exploring ICT’s potential to reach more citizens at a lower cost and to tap into the so-called wisdom of the crowd, as governments attempt to earn citizens’ trust and revitalize European democracy by developing more responsive, transparent, and participatory decisionmaking processes.

For instance, when Anne Hidalgo was elected mayor of Paris in May 2014, one of her priorities was to make the city more collaborative by allowing Parisians to propose policy and develop projects together. In order to build a stronger relationship with the citizens, she immediately started to implement a citywide participatory budgeting project for the whole of Paris, including all types of policy issues. It started as a small pilot, with the city of Paris putting forward fifteen projects that could be funded with up to about 20 million euros and letting citizens vote on which projects to invest in, via ballot box or online. Parisians and local authorities deemed this experiment successful, so Hidalgo decided it was worth taking further, with more ideas and a bigger pot of money. Within two years, the level of participation grew significantly—from 40,000 voters in 2014 to 92,809 in 2016, representing 5 percent of the total urban population. Today, Paris Budget Participatif is an official platform that lets Parisians decide how to spend 5 percent of the investment budget from 2014 to 2020, amounting to around 500 million euros. In addition, the mayor also introduced two e-democracy platforms—Paris Petitions, for e-petitions, and Idée Paris, for e-consultations. Citizens in the French capital now have multiple channels to express their opinions and contribute to the development of their city.

In Latvia, civil society has played a significant role in changing how legislative procedures are organized. ManaBalss (My Voice) is a grassroots NGO that creates tools for better civic participation in decisionmaking processes. Its online platform,, is a public e-participation website that lets Latvian citizens propose, submit, and sign legislative initiatives to improve policies at both the national and municipal level. …

In Finland, the government itself introduced an element of direct democracy into the Finnish political system, through the 2012 Citizens’ Initiative Act (CI-Act) that allows citizens to submit initiatives to the parliament. …

Other civic tech NGOs across Europe have been developing and experimenting with a variety of digital tools to reinvigorate democracy. These include initiatives like Science For You (SCiFY) in Greece, Netwerk Democratie in the Netherlands, and the Citizens Foundation in Iceland, which got its start when citizens were asked to crowdsource their constitution in 2010.

Outside of civil society, several private tech companies are developing digital platforms for democratic participation, mainly at the local government level. One example is the Belgian start-up CitizenLab, an online participation platform that has been used by more than seventy-five municipalities around the world. The young founders of CitizenLab have used technology to innovate the democratic process by listening to what politicians need and including a variety of functions, such as crowdsourcing mechanisms, consultation processes, and participatory budgeting. Numerous other European civic tech companies have been working on similar concepts—Cap Collectif in France, Delib in the UK, and Discuto in Austria, to name just a few. Many of these digital tools have proven useful to elected local or national representatives….

While these initiatives are making a real impact on the quality of European democracy, most of the EU’s formal policy focus is on constraining the power of the tech giants rather than positively aiding digital participation….(More)”

New study on eGovernment shows how Europe’s digital public services can do better

European Commission: “Today the European Commission published a new study, the eGovernment benchmark report 2018, which demonstrates that the availability and quality of online public services have improved in the EU. Overall there has been significant progress in respect to the efficient use of public information and services online, transparency of government authorities’ operations and users’ control of personal data, cross-border mobility and key enablers, such as the availability of electronic identity cards and other documents.

EU average scores on different eGov criteria such as user centricity, transparency and cross-border mobility

10 EU countries (Malta, Austria, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Portugal, Denmark) and Norway are delivering high-quality digital services with a score above 75% on important events of daily life such as moving, finding a job, starting a business or studying. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are outperforming the rest of the countries in terms of digitisation of the public administrations and adoption of online public services....

Further efforts are notably needed in cross-border mobility and digital identification. So far only 6 EU countries have notified their eID means which enables their cross-border recognition….(More) (Report)”

Many Around the World Are Disengaged From Politics

Richard Wike and Alexandra Castillo at Pew Research Center: “An engaged citizenry is often considered a sign of a healthy democracy. High levels of political and civic participation increase the likelihood that the voices of ordinary citizens will be heard in important debates, and they confer a degree of legitimacy on democratic institutions. However, in many nations around the world, much of the public is disengaged from politics.

To better understand public attitudes toward civic engagement, Pew Research Center conducted face-to-face surveys in 14 nations encompassing a wide range of political systems. The study, conducted in collaboration with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) as part of their International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), includes countries from Africa, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Because it does not represent every region, the study cannot reflect the globe as a whole. But with 14,875 participants across such a wide variety of countries, it remains a useful snapshot of key, cross-national patterns in civic life.

The survey finds that, aside from voting, relatively few people take part in other forms of political and civic participation. Still, some types of engagement are more common among young people, those with more education, those on the political left and social network users. And certain issues – especially health care, poverty and education – are more likely than others to inspire political action. Here are eight key takeaways from the survey, which was conducted from May 20 to Aug. 12, 2018, via face-to-face interviews.

Most people vote, but other forms of participation are much less common. Across the 14 nations polled, a median of 78% say they have voted at least once in the past. Another 9% say they might vote in the future, while 7% say they would never vote.

With at least 9-in-10 reporting they have voted in the past, participation is highest in three of the four countries with compulsory voting (Brazil, Argentina and Greece). Voting is similarly high in both Indonesia (91%) and the Philippines (91%), two countries that do not have compulsory voting laws.

The lowest percentage is found in Tunisia (62%), which has only held two national elections since the Jasmine Revolution overthrew long-serving President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 and spurred the Arab Spring protests across the Middle East.

Chart showing that beyond voting, political participation is relatively low.

Attending a political campaign event or speech is the second most common type of participation among those surveyed – a median of 33% have done this at least once. Fewer people report participating in volunteer organizations (a median of 27%), posting comments on political issues online (17%), participating in an organized protest (14%) or donating money to a social or political organization (12%)….(More)”.

Renovating democracy from the bottom up

Nathan Gardels at the Washington Post: “The participatory power of social media is a game changer for governance. It levels the playing field among amateurs and experts, peers and authorities and even challenges the legitimacy of representative government. Its arrival coincides with and reinforces the widespread distrust of elites across the Western world, ripening the historical moment for direct democracy.

For the first time, an Internet-based movement has come to power in a major country, Italy, under the slogan “Participate, don’t delegate!” All of the Five Star Movement’s parliamentarians, who rule the country in a coalition with the far-right League party, were nominated and elected to stand for office online. And they have appointed the world’s first minister for direct democracy, Riccardo Fraccaro.

In Rome this week, he explained the participatory agenda of Italy’s ruling coalition government to The WorldPost at a meeting of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy. “Citizens must be granted the same possibility to actively intervene in the process of managing and administrating public goods as normally carried out by their elected representatives,” he enthused. “What we have witnessed in our democracy is a drift toward ‘partyocracy,’ in which a restricted circle of policymakers have been so fully empowered with decision-making capacity that they could virtually ignore and bypass the public will. The mere election of a representative every so many years is no longer sufficient to prevent this from happening. That is why our government will take the next step forward in order to innovate and enhance our democracy.”

Fraccaro went on: “Referenda, public petitions and the citizens’ ballot initiative are nothing other than the direct means available for the citizenry to submit laws that political parties are not willing to propose or to reject rules approved by political parties that are not welcome by the people. Our aim, therefore, is to establish the principles and practices of direct democracy alongside the system of representative government in order to give real, authentic sovereignty to the citizens.”

At the Rome forum, Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio, a Five Star member, railed against the technocrats and banks he says are trying to frustrate the will of the people. He promised forthcoming changes in the Italian constitution to follow through on Fraccaro’s call for citizen-initiated propositions that will go to the public ballot if the legislature does not act on them.

The program that has so far emerged out of the government’s participatory agenda is a mixed bag. It includes everything from anti-immigrant and anti-vaccine policies to the expansion of digital networks and planting more trees. In a move that has unsettled the European Union authorities as well as Italy’s non-partisan, indirectly-elected president, the governing coalition last week proposed both a tax cut and the provision of a universal basic income — despite the fact that Italy’s long-term debt is already 130 percent of GDP.

The Italian experiment warrants close attention as a harbinger of things to come elsewhere. It reveals a paradox for governance in this digital age: the more participation there is, the greater the need for the counterbalance of impartial mediating practices and institutions that can process the cacophony of voices, sort out the deluge of contested information, dispense with magical thinking and negotiate fair trade-offs among the welter of conflicting interests….(More)”.

European science funders ban grantees from publishing in paywalled journals

Martin Enserink at Science: “Frustrated with the slow transition toward open access (OA) in scientific publishing, 11 national funding organizations in Europe turned up the pressure today. As of 2020, the group, which jointly spends about €7.6 billion on research annually, will require every paper it funds to be freely available from the moment of publication. In a statement, the group said it will no longer allow the 6- or 12-month delays that many subscription journals now require before a paper is made OA, and it won’t allow publication in so-called hybrid journals, which charge subscriptions but also make individual papers OA for an extra fee.

The move means grantees from these 11 funders—which include the national funding agencies in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and France as well as Italy’s National Institute for Nuclear Physics—will have to forgo publishing in thousands of journals, including high-profile ones such as NatureScienceCell, and The Lancet, unless those journals change their business model. “We think this could create a tipping point,” says Marc Schiltz, president of Science Europe, the Brussels-based association of science organizations that helped coordinate the plan. “Really the idea was to make a big, decisive step—not to come up with another statement or an expression of intent.”

The announcement delighted many OA advocates. “This will put increased pressure on publishers and on the consciousness of individual researchers that an ecosystem change is possible,” says Ralf Schimmer, head of Scientific Information Provision at the Max Planck Digital Library in Munich, Germany. Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication, calls the plan “admirably strong.” Many other funders support OA, but only the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation applies similarly stringent requirements for “immediate OA,” Suber says. The European Commission and the European Research Council support the plan; although they haven’t adopted similar requirements for the research they fund, a statement by EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas suggests they may do so in the future and urges the European Parliament and the European Council to endorse the approach….(More)”.

An Overview of National AI Strategies

Medium Article by Tim Dutton: “The race to become the global leader in artificial intelligence (AI) has officially begun. In the past fifteen months, Canada, China, Denmark, the EU Commission, Finland, France, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Nordic-Baltic region, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, the UAE, and the UK have all released strategies to promote the use and development of AI. No two strategies are alike, with each focusing on different aspects of AI policy: scientific research, talent development, skills and education, public and private sector adoption, ethics and inclusion, standards and regulations, and data and digital infrastructure.

This article summarizes the key policies and goals of each strategy, as well as related policies and initiatives that have announced since the release of the initial strategies. It also includes countries that have announced their intention to develop a strategy or have related AI policies in place….(More)”.

Our misguided love affair with techno-politics

The Economist: “What might happen if technology, which smothers us with its bounty as consumers, made the same inroads into politics? Might data-driven recommendations suggest “policies we may like” just as Amazon recommends books? Would we swipe right to pick candidates in elections or answers in referendums? Could businesses expand into every cranny of political and social life, replete with ® and ™ at each turn? What would this mean for political discourse and individual freedom?

This dystopian yet all-too-imaginable world has been conjured up by Giuseppe Porcaro in his novel “Disco Sour”. The story takes place in the near future, after a terrible war and breakdown of nations, when the (fictional) illegitimate son of Roman Polanski creates an app called Plebiscitum that works like Tinder for politics.

Mr Porcaro—who comes armed with a doctorate in political geography—uses the plot to consider questions of politics in the networked age. The Economist’s Open Future initiative asked him to reply to five questions in around 100 words each. An excerpt from the book appears thereafter.

*     *     *

The Economist: In your novel, an entrepreneur attempts to replace elections with an app that asks people to vote on individual policies. Is that science fiction or prediction? And were you influenced by Italy’s Five Star Movement?

Giuseppe Porcaro: The idea of imagining a Tinder-style app replacing elections came up because I see connections between the evolution of dating habits and 21st-century politics. A new sort of “tinderpolitics” kicking in when instant gratification substitutes substantial participation. Think about tweet trolling, for example.

Italy’s Five Star Movement was certainly another inspiration as it is has been a pioneer in using an online platform to successfully create a sort of new political mass movement. Another one was an Australian political party called Flux. They aim to replace the world’s elected legislatures with a new system known as issue-based direct democracy.

The Economist: Is it too cynical to suggest that a more direct relationship between citizens and policymaking would lead to a more reactionary political landscape? Or does the ideal of liberal democracy depend on an ideal citizenry that simply doesn’t exist?  

Mr Porcaro: It would be cynical to put the blame on citizens for getting too close to influence decision-making. That would go against the very essence of the “liberal democracy ideal”. However, I am critical towards the pervasive idea that technology can provide quick fixes to bridge the gap between citizens and the government. By applying computational thinking to democracy, an extreme individualisation and instant participation, we forget democracy is not simply the result of an election or the mathematical sum of individual votes. Citizens risk entering a vicious circle where reactionary politics are easier to go through.

The Economist: Modern representative democracy was in some ways a response to the industrial revolution. If AI and automation radically alter the world we live in, will we have to update the way democracy works too—and if so, how? 

Mr Porcaro: Democracy has already morphed several times. 19th century’s liberal democracy was shaken by universal suffrage, and adapted to the Fordist mode of production with the mass party. May 1968 challenged that model. Today, the massive availability of data and the increasing power of decision-making algorithms will change both political institutions.

The policy “production” process might be utterly redesigned. Data collected by devices we use on a daily basis (such as vehicles, domestic appliances and wearable sensors) will provide evidence about the drivers of personal voting choices, or the accountability of government decisions. …(More)

What Democracy Needs Now

The RSA Chief Executive’s Lecture 2018 by Matthew Taylor: “In 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall still echoing, Francis Fukuyama prophesied the global triumph of liberal democracy and the end of history. Thirty years on it is not history in jeopardy but liberal democracy itself.

China – the rising global power – is thriving with a system which combines economic freedom with political autocracy. There is the growth of what Yascha Mounk calls illiberal democracies – countries with notionally free elections but without the liberal foundations of accountability, civil liberties and cultural openness. The issue with nations like Russia, Hungary and Turkey, and with those exhibiting a backlash against liberalism like America and Italy, is not just how they operate but the tendency for populism – when given the excuse or opportunity – to drift towards authoritarianism.

While the alternatives to the liberal democratic system grow more confident the citizens living in those systems become more restless. Politicians and political institutions in countries are viewed with dismay and contempt. We don’t like them, we don’t trust them, we don’t think they can solve the problems that most matter to us. The evidence, particularly from the US, is starting to suggest that disillusionment with politics is now becoming indifference towards democracy itself.

Will liberal democracy come back into fashion – is this a cycle or is it a trend? Behind the global patterns each country is different, but think of what is driving anger and disillusionment in our own.

Living standards flat-lining for longer than at any time since the industrial revolution. A decade of austerity leaving our public services threadbare and in a mode of continual crisis management. From social care to gangs, from cybercrime to mental health, how many of us think Government is facing up to the problems let alone developing solutions?

Inequality, having risen precipitously in the 1980s, remains stubbornly high, fuelling anger about elites and making not just the economic divide but all divisions worse.

Social media – where increasingly people get their information and engage in political discourse – has the seemingly in-built tendency to confirm prejudice and polarise opinion.

The great intertwined forces shaping the future – globalisation, unprecedented corporate power, technological change – continue to reinforce a sense in people, places and nations that they have no agency. Yet the hunger to take back control which started as tragedy is rapidly becoming a farce.

If this is the warm climate in which disillusionment has taken root and grown it shows few signs of cooling.

For all its many failings, I have always believed that over the long term liberal democracy would carry on making lives better for most people most of the time. As a progressive my guiding star is what Roberto Unger has called ‘the larger life for all’. But for the first time, I view the future with more fear than hope.

There are those who disparage pessimism. To them the backlash against liberalism, the signs of a declining faith in democracy, are passing responses to failure and misfortune. Populism will give the system the wake-up call it needs. In time a new generation of leaders will renew the system. Populism need neither be extreme nor beget authoritarianism – look at Macron.

This underestimates the dangers that face us. It is too reminiscent of those who believed, until the results came in, that the British people would not take the risk of Brexit or that the Americans would reject the madness of Trump. It underestimates too how the turn against liberal democracy in one country can beget it in another. Paradoxically, today nationalists seem more able to collaborate with each other than countries ostensibly committed to internationalism. Chaos spreads more quickly than order. Global treaties and institutions take years to agree, they can breakdown overnight.

Of course, liberal democracy has failed over and again to live up to its own promise. But the fact that things need to change doesn’t mean they can’t get a whole lot worse.

We are also in danger of underestimating the coherence and confidence of liberalism’s critics. Last month Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban made a powerful speech defending his brand of nationalist populism and boasting of his growing alliances across Europe. He appealed to the continent’s centre-right to recognise that it has more in common with conservative nationalism than the EU’s liberal establishment. There are aspects of Orban’s analysis which have an understandable appeal to the mainstream, but remember this is also a man who is unashamedly hostile to Islam, contemptuous of humanitarianism, and who is playing fast and loose with democratic safeguards in his own country.

We may disagree about how malign or dangerous are figures like Orban or Erdogan, or Trump or Salvini, but surely we can agree that those who want to defend the open, pluralistic, inclusive values of liberal democracy must try to make a better case for what we believe?

In part this involves defending the record of liberal societies in improving lives, creating opportunities and keeping the peace, at least between themselves. But it also means facing up to what is going wrong and what must change.

Complex problems are rarely addressed with a single solution. To ever again achieve the remarkable and unprecedented economic and social advances of the three decades after the Second World War, liberal democracy needs profound renewal. But change must start some place. This evening I want to argue that place should be the way we do democracy itself…(More) (Video)”.