Conference Paper

ICPP5 Barcelona 2021 T08P06 Public Goods and Public Trust in Government: Evidence from India

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Abstract

In modern liberal democracies, the relationship between citizens and their governments is influenced by myriad factors that shape how citizens perceive the state as well as the act of governance itself. One of the ways governments might try to gain favor with their citizens is the provision of public goods, which is considered economically efficient as well as morally necessary (Anomaly 2015). Despite huge public expenditure on services such as healthcare, education, sanitation, electricity and water supply, we know very little about whether access to public goods leads to public trust in government. Such a connection is logical-the provision of public goods is an important aspect of 'good governance'. I test this assumption in India, a highly diverse liberal democracy that is characterized by socioeconomic variations between states as well as huge disparities in income and access to basic services, where the provision of such services by the government can influence public confidence or trust in the government. I define provision in terms of availability of basic public goods to households at the state level in India, and drawing on earlier work I measure public trust in terms of the confidence people have in their state governments in India to take care of their basic needs. Using cross-sectional survey data, I show not only that the provision of public goods is associated with increased trust or confidence in state governments, but that access to health, education, sanitation and water supply are the most important such public goods. The findings have the potential to inform policy choices about the provision of public service programs in India as well a broader understanding of the relationship between public services and trust in government.

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