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Low expectations or different evaluations -- What explains immigrants’ high levels of trust in host country institutions?

Antje Röder and Peter Mühlau

IIIS Discussion Paper No. 344


Several recent studies show that immigrants exhibit higher levels of trust in public institutions than natives. This study uses pooled data from the European Social Survey to examine possible reasons for this ‘over-confidence’ of immigrants, arguing that it is largely the relatively lower expectations of immigrants from countries with poorer institutional performance that account for this difference. The eminent role of expectations is also underscored by the finding that low social standing matters less for the level of trust of immigrants than it does for natives. The ‘frame of reference effect’ weakens over time and with increased acculturation in the country of residence, suggesting that expectations are less strongly based on experiences in the country of origin the better integrated an immigrant is in the country of residence. A small part of  immigrants’ higher trust levels and of the dual frames of reference effect are mediated by the more conservative value orientations of immigrants from countries with lower political stability, who appear to regard stability and conformity more highly. However, the overall pattern of effects indicates that lower rather than different expectations explain immigrants’ higher levels of institutional trust.

Key words: Migration; Confidence; Trust; Institutions; Expectations


Last updated 28 August 2014 by IIIS (Email).