Public Trust in Elections: The Role of Election Administration Autonomy and Media Freedom
As multiparty elections have become a global norm, scholars and policy experts regard public trust in elections as vital for regime legitimacy. However, very few cross-national studies have examined the consequences of electoral manipulation, including the manipulation of election administration and the media, on citizens’ trust in elections. This paper addresses this gap by exploring how autonomy of election management bodies (EMBs) and media freedom individually and conjointly shape citizens’ trust in elections. Citizens are more likely to express confidence in elections when EMBs display de-facto autonomy, and less likely to do so when media entities disseminate information independent of government control. Additionally, we suggest that EMB autonomy may not have a positive effect on public trust in elections if media freedom is low. Empirical findings based on recent survey data on public trust in 47 elections and expert data on de-facto EMB autonomy and media freedom support our hypotheses.
This research project was supported by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, Grant M13-0559:1, PI: Staffan I. Lindberg, V-Dem Institute, University of Gothenburg, Sweden; by Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation to Wallenberg Academy Fellow Staffan I. Lindberg, Grant 2013.0166, V-Dem Institute, University of Gothenburg, Sweden; as well as by internal grants from the Vice-Chancellor’s office, the Dean of the College of Social Sciences, and the Department of Political Science at University of Gothenburg. We performed simulations and other computational tasks using resources provided by the Notre Dame Center for Research Computing (CRC) through the High Performance Computing section and the Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing (SNIC) at the National Supercomputer Centre in Sweden. We specifically acknowledge the assistance of In-Saeng Suh at CRC and Johan Raber at SNIC in facilitating our use of their respective systems. For helpful comments, we thank Seoyoun Choi, Kyle Marquardt, Shane Singh and participants of the University of Gothenburg’s Elections, Opinion and Democracy Workshop (4/2016), the ECPR Joint Sessions in Pisa (4/2016), the EIP/V-Dem pre-APSA workshop (8/2016) and the APSA panel on the Quality of Elections (8/2016) where earlier versions of this paper were discussed.