Race & Political Trust: Justice as a Unifying Influence on Political Trust
Refereed Article, 2022
Wu, C., Wilkes, R., & Wilson, D. C. (2022). Race & Political Trust: Justice as a Unifying Influence on Political Trust. Daedalus, 151(4), 177-199.
Americans’ trust in government is lower than ever. However, while all groups have seen a decline in trust since the 1960s, the gap in trust between racial and ethnic minorities and Whites in this period has varied not only in size but also in direction. At times, racial and ethnic minorities have actually had higher rates of trust than Whites, contradicting the broad assumptions in research about race and political trust. Explanations of the causes of trust in government that emphasize institutional experience and early socialization would not predict this outcome. We propose that an underutilized component in the study of race and political trust is perceived justice. On one hand, racial and ethnic minorities’ sensitivity to institutional injustice often leads to lower rates of trust. On the other hand, when racial and ethnic minorities perceive there are greater opportunities for racial progress, which signal that widespread harm can be repaired, their political trust tends to increase, sometimes to levels that exceed those for Whites. The interplay between political realities that shape perceived justice as well as political hope for racial progress likely creates the variable longitudinal patterns of racial and ethnic differences in trust.