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In search of reliable results: Socialist values and political trust in unified Germany – A comment on Campbell's analyses and conclusions


Address for correspondence: Christian Schnaudt, School of Social Sciences, University of Mannheim, 68131 Mannheim, Germany. E-mail:


In a recently published article in this journal, Ross Campbell argues that adherence to socialist values establishes a hitherto neglected factor when it comes to the explanation of differences in East and West German citizens’ political trust. As the results of his study indicate, adherence to socialist values impacts negatively on citizens’ political trust, this effect is more pronounced and more stable over time for East German as compared to West German citizens and is sufficiently strong to eliminate aggregate-level differences in political trust between East and West Germany. However, this research note suggests that Campbell's article contains several substantial inconsistencies and obscurities that question the reliability and validity of the empirical findings presented. It provides a re-analysis of Campbell's main arguments and shows to what extent his initial conclusions can be upheld after the shortcomings have been remedied. The results of this re-analysis suggest that socialist values indeed exhibit a negative impact on German citizens’ political trust, which is relatively stronger for East as compared to West German citizens. However, contrary to Campbell's initial results, the negative effect of socialist values on political trust is robust over time for both East and West German citizens. What is more, there is no empirical evidence confirming that differences in adherence to socialist values between East and West German citizens are sufficiently strong to account for aggregate-level differences in political trust. In light of these findings, two of Campbell's three main conclusions are dubious and call for further examination.