Economic Inequality and Local Political Trust in Modern China: Exploring the Role of Social Values

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Economic inequality can lead to various sociopolitical consequences and declining political support is one of them. Previous empirical studies have reported the negative effects of economic inequality on political trust in societies with different economic and political systems. This study aims to examine the relationship between economic inequality and local political trust in Mainland China using the 2018 CFPS data, with special attention paid to the role of social values, including the belief in upward social mobility and the belief in the relationship between inequality and economic growth. Particularly, it focuses on the effects of both objective and subjective economic inequality.
Using multilevel ordinal logistic regression models, this study finds that 1) Both objective and subjective economic inequality is significantly negatively associated with local political trust. Respondents who have perceived the severity of economic inequality in the current society or live in areas with a large income gap between rich and poor families are more likely to consider local cadres as distrustful. 2) Two social values are both significantly negatively associated with perceived economic inequality. Individuals who have much confidence in opportunities for upward social mobility based on personal merits or agree with the statement that the income gap should be enlarged for economic growth are less likely to perceive economic inequality as highly severe. Moreover, the effect of the belief in social mobility is larger than the belief in economic growth. 3) Social values moderate the negative effect of economic inequality on local political trust. This study makes contributions to the literature by providing new understandings of mechanisms of economic inequality’s influence on political trust as well as the relationship between inequality and regime legitimacy in China.


Type of resource text
Date created December 9, 2022
Publication date December 9, 2022


Author Liang, Lemeng
Degree granting institution Stanford University, Stanford Global Studies, Center for East Asian Studies
Thesis advisor Zhou, Xueguang


Subject Economic inequality
Subject Political trust
Subject Social values
Genre Text
Genre Thesis

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Liang, L. (2022). Economic Inequality and Local Political Trust in Modern China: Exploring the Role of Social Values. Stanford Digital Repository. Available at


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