EXPRESSIONS OF DISTRUST: Third-Party Voting and Cynicism in Government

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Abstract

Voter distrust of the national government is an ongoing theoretical concern for scholars who study voting behavior in the United States. Previous research demonstrates that distrustful voters are less likely to vote for major party candidates than their more trusting counterparts. Using the American National Election Survey, we explore the relationship between citizen distrust and voting for three major third-party challengers (Wallace, Anderson, and Perot) and the use of trust levels as predictors of third- party voting. We find citizen trust levels are significant and strong predictors of third-party voting, independent of other common explanatory variables of vote choice. We also find trust levels are stable over time, and we find little evidence to support the argument that trust levels measure trust of incumbent political figures.

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