This paper addresses the corruption-trust nexus with survey data and statistical methods. Data are drawn from the Afrobarometer, a comparative series of national public attitude surveys on democracy, markets and civil society in selected African countries. This paper confirms that corruption is a major, perhaps the major, obstacle to building popular trust in state institutions and electoral processes in Africa. The paper also shows that Africans clearly regard all forms of corruption as wrong and that low institutional trust inhibits the development of mass attitudes supportive of democracy. Indeed, the connection between corruption and distrust is so strong that, as well as running “forwards” (from corruption to trust), it may also run “backwards” (by which low trust in state institutions raises popular suspicions that public officials are corrupt). This paper not only confirms the first hypothesis, but also tests the latter.
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