Trust, the Democratic Process, and Involvement in a Rural Community*


  • *

    Direct all correspondence to Sandra Marquart-Pyatt, Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology, 0730 Old Main Hill, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-0730. Email: Acknowledgements: USU Agricultural Experiment Station No. 840.


Abstract A number of dimensions of the democratic political process are important for understanding civic communities and civic engagement. While many of these aspects have been examined at the federal level, less is known about how these dynamics operate at the local level, especially in rural communities, and that, moreover, involve a specific issue. In this study, we explore the relationships between trust in public officials, views of the decision-making process, and issue-related involvement in a rural community in Utah. In particular, we examine the factors underpinning citizens' expressed levels of general trust in public officials, support for the decision-making process in their community related to a specific issue, the factors influencing individuals to participate in the issue, and how citizens view various groups involved in defining the public good related to the specific issue. We find 1) that perceptions of the political process influence all three aspects of the democratic process, 2) that neither lack of trust nor dissatisfaction appears to be detrimental to the democratic process at the local level, and 3) that differences in opinion regarding definitions of the public good intersect with other aspects of the political process. This research sheds light on factors influencing rural community functioning and citizen responses to proposed changes. In discussing the results, we reflect in particular on their implications for rural communities.