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20 September 2012

Trust in justice and the legitimacy of legal authorities: topline findings from a European comparative study

By Mike Hough, Jonathan Jackson, Ben Bradford

This chapter presents findings on public trust in justice drawn from the fifth European Social Survey (ESS), carried out in 28 countries in 2010/11. The dataset used here covers 26 of the 28 countries, and has a total sample size of almost 51,000 people.

The findings were produced based on a module on trust, designed by the researchers, to test an elaborated version of Tyler’s (Tyler 2006; Tyler and Huo 2002) procedural justice theory, which posits that fair treatment by police and other justice officials yields public trust in justice, which in turn consolidates the legitimacy of institutions of justice, and thus public cooperation and compliance with the law.

In the chapter first the researchers sketch out the political context that has led to growing interest in procedural justice ideas, initially in the United States but increasingly in Europe. Then they summarize theories of procedural justice and the particular variant tested in the ESS. Then, after a brief account of the methodology of the ESS, they outline some initial findings, including multivariate analysis exploring the relationships between trust and perceptions of legitimacy. They end the chapter with some reflections both about the policy implications of the study and about the further development of comparative research of this sort across Europe.

Documents to download

ESS legitimacy European Handbook.pdf [0.30 MB],