Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Political Science


Political Science

Major Professor

Rosenblum, Marc

Second Advisor

Baldassare, Mark

Third Advisor

Day, Christine

Fourth Advisor

Howell, Susan E.

Fifth Advisor

Sims, Robert T.


Political trust is an important concept in a representative democracy because it defines citizens’ expectations of their elected officials, their willingness to allow government to act on their behalf, and the quality of democratic accountability. Distrust, or when government outcomes fail to meet citizens' expectations, has been linked to discontent and disaffection, and to a broad decline in the legitimacy of government institutions. Research consistently shows that Latinos are more trusting than non-Latinos--a finding which seems discordant in light of the socio-economic and cultural differences between these groups. The concept of expectations is especially interesting and useful in examining differences in levels of political trust among Latinos and non-Latinos. The literature on Latino trust lacks any comprehensive analysis of the determinants and consequences of political trust among Latinos. This dissertation attempts to answer the following questions: What are the determinants of political trust among Latinos? Why are Latinos more trusting of government than non-Latinos? What impact does political trust have on Latino policy preferences and vote choice? Utilizing survey data of Californians, evidence I find that acculturation and country-of-origin variables account for differences between Latinos and non-Latinos, and that socio-economic variables do not. Latinos of Mexican origin are less trusting that other Latinos. Political trust has a negative impact of Latino support for health care reform, but no impact on non-Latino policy preferences in this area. Once again, trust impacts Mexican and non-Mexican Latinos differently. Finally, I confirm the positive relationship between political trust and voting for an incumbent (the negative relationship between trust and support for a major or minor party challenger); this relationship is constant across Latino and non-Latino groups.


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