The Global Erosion of Trust and Democracy and Its Implications for Health and Societies

Project Expert

Thomas J. Bollyky
Thomas J. Bollyky

Bloomberg Chair in Global Health; Senior Fellow for International Economics, Law, and Development; and Director of the Global Health Program

About the Project

Well-functioning democracies create a virtuous cycle. The government is trustworthy, citizens recognize it as such, and respond by cooperating with its policies. That cooperation enables government to deliver, further extending that trust. The converse, however, is also true. In dysfunctional democracies, political polarization and looming collective action challenges make it harder for governments to perform successfully.  Polarization makes it difficult for people to agree on basic facts concerning government performance, presenting a formidable barrier to the rapid restoration of trust. Reported levels of trust in government and among citizens are declining in many democracies, especially in the United States. This decline had devastating consequences in the COVID-19 pandemic, where low-trust societies performed significantly worse than their counterparts, but it has broader implications for health and societies as well. The Project on the Global Erosion of Trust and Democracy examines the global erosion of trust and democracy and its implications for how the United States pursues better health at home and abroad.