Trust in Political Institutions and Support for Authoritarianism in Latin American Students – Does Civic Knowledge Make a Difference?


Trust in political institutions represents a central component of democratic systems. When citizens lack confidence in state bodies as the government and the parliament, the legitimacy of democracy is dangerously challenged. In the case of Latin America we observe a critical scenario, with a steady decrease of institutional trust in the last decade, accompanied by alarming levels of support for authoritarian regimes. Most of the evidence in this regards refers to adult population, leaving sidelined the young generations who certainly have a stake in the future of democracy in the region. Focusing on the role of the acquisition of civic knowledge at school as a protecting factor of democracy, this research analyzes the role of civic knowledge to understand trust in civic institutions and authoritarian attitudes in eighth-grade students. The data corresponds to the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS) 2009 and 2016, in which seven Latin American Countries have participated. The results indicates a puzzling role of civic knowledge, as it diminishes trust in institutions but at the same time reduces authoritarian beliefs, in a similar way in the Latin American countries across time. The consequences for democracy and citizenship education are addressed in the conclusion.

In Ashley Weinberg: Psychology of Democracy: Of the People, By the People, For the People 173–194 . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 978-1-108-47775-8

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