Date of Award


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Psychology, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Oluf Gøtzsche-Astrup

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Michael Hogg

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

William Crano

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Jason T. Siegel

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2024 Kaiyuan Chen


Economic uncertainty, Self-uncertainty, Elections, Public trust, Political liberals

Subject Categories



Elections play a central role in building public trust. Yet, ironically, distrust in elections is also pervasive, posing a threat to many political systems. It is therefore important to understand factors that affect public’s confidence in elections. Drawing from work in social psychology, this research proposes that economic uncertainty should undermine confidence in elections, because it could elicit self-uncertainty. Two studies were designed to test this hypothesis. Study 1 ( N = 87,822) was a secondary data analysis of a large-scale multi-nation dataset. The main finding was that economic uncertainty predicted reduced confidence in elections especially among political liberals (vs. conservatives) and in nations where election integrity (i.e., freedom and fairness) was high. Study 2 ( N = 342) zoomed in on the causal effect of economic uncertainty in one specific context (i.e., the contemporary United States). Participants received either an economic uncertainty prime, a neutral/control prime, or a direct self-uncertainty prime, and then rated themselves on measures of self-uncertainty and confidence in various social institutions (including elections). The experimental conditions did not differ from one another, providing no support for the hypothesis. Follow-up analyses were conducted using self-report uncertainty as the predictor. The analyses revealed that uncertainty predicted less confidence in social institutions generally (as opposed to elections specifically) among political liberals (but not among conservatives). Implications are discussed with regards to confidence in social institutions and the different ways conservatives and liberals respond to economic uncertainty.



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