The coronavirus pandemic has given governments a surge in popularity. Experts speak of a “rally round the flag” effect taking place in most countries, as citizens put aside political differences and look to their governments for leadership through the crisis.
However, these soaring approval ratings are something new. Across Europe, for example, most politicians have long been treated with suspicion. According to Eurobarometer polling, the percentage of EU citizens who say they trust their national government and parliament has been trending upwards in recent years, but has nevertheless spent most of the 2010s below 30%.
What do our readers think? We had a comment from Uloisius, who thinks trust is key to the functioning of our political system but adds that he really distrusts most politicians today. How common is his attitude?
To get a reaction, we spoke to Isabell Hoffmann from the Bertelsmann Stiftung. She is an expert on democracy and legitimacy in the European Union, and runs projects looking at the opinions of European citizens. How would she respond to Uloisius’ comment?
People don’t trust politicians. For many years now, politicians have been one of the least-trusted professional groups. Levels of trust vary across countries, but generally the picture is the same. I find it problematic that there are currently not only popular misunderstandings and contradictions regarding politicians, but also about the political process itself.
If politicians make politics professionally in the institutions, they go into great technical detail, debates can become less accessible, even if this is necessary. Technical ‘translation difficulties’ can arise if the details are to be made understandable to a broad audience. This is a real art in politics, which not everyone masters, but which is very important.
The second problem is about understanding of the political process. Do I know how difficult it is to find a compromise in democratic institutions? It is not about decisions being made from above, out of touch from ordinary people. Who has experience these days of such decision-making processes, or even has had to organise them themselves? Fewer and fewer people are involved in organisations such as political parties, unions or sports clubs. Therefore, there is no understanding of political process. But that is necessary in order to have trust.
When it comes to politics, more people should be involved (as they once were) so that they understand the political process.
Do you trust politicians? If not, how can politicians regain your trust? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!