International Journal of Public Opinion Research vol:24 issue:2 pages:208-224
Trust in political institutions can be considered as an important prerequisite for the stability of democratic political systems. Opinions differ, however, on how this attitude is shaped. Research among adolescents suggests that this age group already has quite stable levels of political trust, even before they have had first-hand experiences with the functioning of political systems. Building on a two-year panel study among Belgian adolescents (n = 3,632), we investigate the development of political trust between the ages of 16 and 18 years. As was already predicted by functionalist authors, experiences with an open classroom climate have strong and persistent positive effects on political trust, and this effect proves to be much stronger than the one from direct civic education classes. The information function of mass media and academic aspirations, too, have a strong effect on political trust.