Trust in Public Institutions in Greece and Turkey
Public institution is an organization founded by governmental units, with duties and liabilities framed by the law, which provides public services to the citizens.
Trust is to be confident about something or to have confidence on others or to believe in someone or something.
The public institutions are vital agencies for the functioning and the continuation of a state. Besides this crucial fact, the purpose of these institutions is to provide the public services which are essential to facilitate the citizens’ everyday life. Though there is not a commonly accepted definition for the public institution, it may be understood as an institution which has the authority to access the public sources and to utilize them in favor of the public welfare.
As it has been rightly observed (Thoenig 2003) for a long time, “public institutions were taken for granted. They were neither an issue for knowledge, nor a problem for action.” Although during the 1970s the topic got a wriggle on, the significance of public institutions came into prominence in the 1980s.
Thoenig (2003), “considering institutions as dependent variables as well as autonomous actors,” claims that “the public institutions has become less normative and more empirical.” It should be also taken into consideration that the background of public institutions may differ in each country and could have its own particular structure. There can even exist differences from one public agency to another within the same country.
Scholars have tried to define what exactly public intuition means, or how it could be classified. Darbel (1972) wrote that the form and structure of public institution, as well as the tasks which are assigned to them, could shape and allocate them. Institutions’ relative state, or the stage in their progress, could be also considered as one of the fundamental elements to delineate the public institutions. Public institutions are also leading factors for the processes to function the public tasks normally. Therefore they are indispensable. Often the power of public institutions may determine the country’s operations, and they play a crucial role in its future.
The fact is that the public institutions are considered as public proctors producing a physical effect appropriate in their particular area of interest, which contributes values and concern in the civic union. The mutual correlation between the local communities and the public institutions may affect the decision-making process and adopting strategies of these institutions. Thoenig (2011) sees a certain fragility in public institutions because, although they are “action-oriented systems,” they are “the non-intended outcomes of permanent collective tinkering.” Solomon and Flores (2001) clarify that each one of these institutions is also an organization. Thereof every one of them has a set of established forms and specific criteria of how to achieve the goals assigned to them and provide the public services that they ought to. The public institutions were identified as fundamental principles of political assortments, as a result of social assessments and self-assembled social systems. One also should bear in mind that any changes of public institutions spread over a comparatively long time.
In this research, trust in public institutions is examined in between Greece and Turkey. The results of social support and relation, trust to other people, political participation, and trust in public institutions analyses are given and shown by tables. The important public institutions in Greek and Turkish societies are evaluated in terms of trust factor. The difference between Greek and Turkish participants is found to be statistically significant (p < 0,05). The study is based on research that was carried out in Greece and Turkey within the framework of the “Third European Quality of Life Survey Questionnaire” – European Quality of Life Survey, 2011–2012.
The reciprocal relation of culture and public institutions has always drawn the attention of academic researchers in the field of sociology. What kind of a configuration type is peculiar to these public institutions? Do they exert the service which it is asserted to be for the public good in favor of folks? Do the activities that these institutions are engaged with have an influence on their public identity or not? Such questions emerge when one strives to understand the logic behind the institutions. The outward way, in which public institutions act, especially toward civic has been delved in relation to the culture. Patterson (2011) assigns to Bourdieu (1993) thinking the observation that “the field of cultural production is a collective product of all cultural institutions. Any particular cultural institution, no matter how powerful, must work within the established rules of the field – in this case, conventional Western ideologies of high culture. By reinforcing these rules, they reinforce their own base of power.”
The influence of the public institutions, as a significant component of culture, should not be undervalued. DiMaggio (1997) argues that the culture passes through institutions. The role of public agencies is a decisive factor pertaining to the essence of a society. In the research of Patterson (2011) are outlined the public institutions as falling within four categories: legal, normative, economic, and class-based. It is a certain fact that public agencies are not the same as private entities or profit-based businesses. Public institutions have their legal statutes within the frame of public functioning. Relative to normative approach is the efficiency of public institutions, the social responsibilities they have, and whether they possess the ability and the necessary skills to respond to the social aims and expectations. From the economic perspective, public institutions, although they present an affinity to certain forms of cultural production, still, when examined from a sociological perspective, leave many researchers with unanswered questions. Di Maggio suspects “that public institutions facilitated class reproduction by enshrining the cultural tastes of the upper class as naturally superior and more refined.” Pierre Bourdieu has classified this as “misrecognition”: “public institutions exist to recreate class divisions by fostering a sense of misrecognition that leads all classes to accept bourgeois tastes as superior” (Bourdieu 1984; DiMaggio 1982; Patterson 2011).
Institutions, by maintaining, suppressing, or spreading information, may influence and shape the public opinion in favor or against a particular person, or a form of artistic expression (Fine 1996; Griswold 1986; Lang and Lang 1988). The impact of public institutions as the key determinants of culture can result to changes in the lives of the citizens of the country. Almond and Verba (1980) believe that “culture affect public and political life, but does not determine societal structures and dynamics.”
One of the recognized key drivers of network commitment is trust. Some authors define trust as the aspect of relying on partner’s confidence; others define trust as a confidence of exchange in partner’s reliability, as well as integrity. It’s important to believe that one’s partner is reliable and has a high level of integrity (Geyskens et al. 1996; Gounaris 2005). Thomas (1998) questions the whole conception of trust by arguing that trust is based on beliefs, rather than expectations. Erikson (1951) speaks about “basic trust” as a personality trait, which is in the form of trust in others and oneself, as feelings of inner goodness and optimism, while Rosenberg (1956, 1957) argued that “trust in people” scales as a single form. Weber identifies trust as a faith. However the social-psychological approach has the apparent restriction that changes in trust among large segments of a country’s population cannot be explained; nevertheless it influenced the shaping of the literature on trust.
The society’s expectations on public services appear as one of the vital aspects for the identical equation of public institutions. Trust factor is very much associated with that. Each public institution differs from the other, and of course every citizen of a country has different prospects from institutions. Due to this fact, trust value may differ regarding to every single institutions’ liabilities and responsibilities. It could be seen that the people feel more trust for some institutions than for others because of the public duties assigned to it and the way this institution performs. The public institutions responsible for national security, such as police, or military, may have more trust by citizens. The reason behind it is that they want to feel safe and secure. It may also be argued that the legal authorities may have as much trust as the institutions which operate in security, because people want to believe in justice. The means by which beliefs, practices, traditions, laws, religious practices, and customs such as cultural phenomena, as well as the history of a nation, should also be considered as trust factors for the public institutional agencies.
According to Thomas (1998), trust is inferred from three specific instances. The fiduciary trust, such as the trust in a professed expertise, is an important component of public trust in government, which may lead to “asymmetric relationships and attendant opportunities for malfeasance” (Barber 1983; Kass 1994).
The mutual trust refers to relations between persons. The relations between people are established upon mutual trust and develop interpersonal relations. The last conception is that social trust which is embedded within institutions. It is also considered as social capital by scholars. Social trust can be found in a group of many individuals. Intentionally giving false information or using the power incorrectly and deliberately giving apocryphal statements may cause the loss of trust and may make peoples to not trust the public officials who are responsible for such discreditable cases. This may also be considered as betrayal of trust and cause the loss of citizen’s confidence in public institutions. Therefore public officials are one of the leading actors to produce the public trust, to bring it forth in public, and to preserve the trust and spread it between the people. In addition to all these, officials may overtake the responsibility to re-establish public trust.
Trust in Public Institutions: The Reality
An indication of what really happens today is given by the results of a relative research in two neighboring but different countries, Greece and Turkey. The people of the two countries lived together for about four centuries, during the Ottoman Empire, but for the past two centuries follow independent roads. Turkey and Greece are similar in ethic and religion homogeneity and are also similar in religiosity since, according to the Eurobarometer 2005, 95% Turks and 81% Greeks believe that there is a God, thus ranking among the most devoutly religious countries (Eurobarometer 225 2005; CIA Word Factbook 2011). The main difference is that in Turkey the predominant religion is Muslim and in Greece the predominant religion is Christian Orthodox. The different religion and the different historical background formed different cultures; nevertheless in both countries, the results of the research show that trust in public institutions reflects the current political situation.
Putnam (1993) and Fukuyama (1995) consider social trust as a cultural feature engrained in all members of a regional or national society. However trust and reliance on institutions as governments, markets, and corporations – the sociopolitical dimension – seem to be reserved, reluctant, and limited. Although institutions are human entities, the appeal to them is not personal, face-to-face. Reliable institutions may influence the character of civil society, build trust, make the citizens more “trustworthy,” and contribute to the coherence of the society.
The social and cultural model, developed as an alternative to the social-psychological theory, argues that human being’s existence conditions and experiences, involvement in a group of people with a cooperative culture, and participation in voluntary activities create social trust and collaboration, civic-mindedness, and reciprocity between individuals. The above is an important factor for the creation of successful social organizations and institutions, including political groups and governmental institutions in which people can invest their confidence. Confidence in political institutions depends on the governmental performance in the same way as trustworthiness of others and willingness to trust them, which are based on the experience of how others behave (Hardin 1996). The institutional performance model is a systemic one to be tested with aggregate data for nation-states. It is neither a psychological nor a social-cultural one.
Social support and relation
Q: If you needed advice about a serious personal or family matter, from whom would you get support?
Member of your family/relative
A friend, neighbor, or someone else, who does not belong to your family or relatives
A service provider, institution, or organization
Trusting of other people results
Q: Would you say that most people can be trusted? (in a scale of 1–10)
Not at all
People voluntarily congregate to discuss local issues and public interactions, so high social trust is associated with a dense and vibrant network of social capital. The social-cultural model shows that trust in people and confidence in institutions are associated with the social position, cultural identity, and personal life experiences of an individual. Citizens who are most active in voluntary organizations and community associations would develop the social trust and cooperative habits that lead to confidence in public institutions. Breuskin (2012) observes that Berman, attempting to bridge the political gap in social capital literature, discerned the interrelation between “civicness” of society and the strength of political institutions: “a strong government can generate social trust among groups by involving various associations in the realisation of services beneficial to the whole society.”
The participants were also asked the questions: (Q23a) “whether one attended, over the last 12 months, a meeting of a trade union, a political party or a political action group,” (Q23b) “whether one attended a protest,” (Q23c) “whether one attended a demonstration, signed a petition, including an e-mail or on-line petition,” and (Q23d) “whether one contacted a politician or public official over the last 12 months.”
According to the results of the analysis, most of the participants did not attend a meeting of a trade union, a political party, or a political action group in both countries (p > 0,05). Similarly, most of the participants did not contact a politician or a public official in both countries (p > 0, 05). On the other hand, attending a protest or demonstration and signing a petition, including an e-mail or online petition distributions, showed statistically significant differences between participant groups (p < 0,05). According to these results, Greek people attended more protests, demonstrations, or political events than Turkish people. Recently, Greece was faced with a serious financial crisis. Due to the crisis, many Greek people protest against the government. For this reason, findings may be affected by recent developments. It should be also considered that recent political issues in Turkey led to a cognitive change on results.
The question Q28 is “How much you personally trust each of the following institutions?” The trust in the following institutions was evaluated: national parliament, legal system, press, police, government, and the local (municipal) authorities.
Trust in public institutions
Trust is an important element in any kind of association. To trust in people and to trust in institutions are basic pillars of representative democracy and society. Therefore to develop a trustful atmosphere in institutions and between people is an essential factor for maintaining an efficient society.
As it was mentioned above, the public institutions which operate in national security may have more trust by citizens. The results of the analysis indicate citizen’s intentional cognitive behavior. Turkish participants have shown more respect to the legislative power, which is the parliament, in terms of trust factor. After a referendum accepted by voters with a small difference, the latest constitutional change, which allows Turkey to have a presidential system of governance, will be implemented after the 2018, June 24, elections. Some concerns regarding the form of the power of legislation have been voiced. Until legislation was exercised by the parliament, but after the implementation of the new presidential system, it will pass to the President.
One of the more noticeable differences between the two countries is government trust. In Turkey, more people trust the government than in Greece. The financial crisis in Greece, which goes on for more than a decade, and the economic austerities may be reflected on these results. The administration of public funds that led to this crisis may be the cause why Greek citizens do not consider the government institution as a trustful agency.
After a very dramatic economic crisis in 2001, in Turkey, the results of the following elections showed that the citizens lost their trust to all parties that had governed the country till then. Somehow the trust factor was restored in between the citizens and public institutions. Here, it should be taken into consideration that the personality of public officials and welcomed reforms may have a positive effect in increasing trust to the public institutions.
Greeks consider the police, the local authorities, and the legal system as trustable institutions. This could be due to the fact that people in Greece feel closer to their local authorities and because they are better able to decide about themselves in their small own territory, for instance, by electing a mayor that they know. Legal system takes the third place in trust factor. It may be argued that the Greek citizens are deeply attached to their principles and they have a high trust to their judicial system.
Many aspects can have a negative effect, resulting to the loss of trust for institutions. Social and political institutions, which have managed to acquire the social trust, are usually effective means for the governments in order to carry out their policies more successfully. Therefore governments encourage confidence in civic institutions. Since trust is going to be one of the major issues of today’s world, the policy makers strive to restore respect for values in Greece and to rebuild the trust at the top. In Turkey the recent demonstrations regarding the corruption in government, a fact which could create an extensive social distrust, are taken seriously into consideration by policy makers who strive to rebuild an atmosphere of stability in the country. The failed coup attempt of July 2016 intensified the mistrust of people to the army and created a strong, although short-lived, coherence in the country. For the first time, Turkey’s ruling party and the opposition parties were united in condemning the coup attempt. A few days after the coup, supporters of different parties congregated together in huge demonstrations in support of “Republic and Democracy.” However a year later, the opposition leader claimed that it was a “controlled coup,” eliciting strong reactions from the leading party.
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