Ronald A. Pernia (2023) Populists in power: trust in public institutions and support for strong leadership in the post-authoritarian democracies of Indonesia and the Philippines, Asian Journal of Political Science, 31:1, 63-85
How does support for strong leadership affect institutional trust in post-authoritarian democracies? Studies suggest that fostering trust in public institutions is contingent upon citizens’ favourable evaluation of the government’s institutional performance, whereas individual’s cultural orientations and political values are seldom given much interest. However, the resurgence of leaders with ‘populist’ tendencies presents an empirical puzzle, which may reveal intriguing political patterns in the context of comparative democratization (and autocratization). This study theorizes that citizens’ need for economic deliverance and social stability develops agreeable attitudes towards prevailing public institutions even though political incumbents project authoritarian tendencies. Using public opinion data from the seventh wave of World Values Survey (WVS7), this study finds that citizens in Indonesia and the Philippines—two of the region’s post-authoritarian democracies i.e. fragile democracies with spells of authoritarian rule manifest high support for a political system with a strong leader unconstrained with electoral and congressional intervention. Consequently, this favourable attitude makes them more likely to express higher institutional confidence. Overall, the findings shed light on the paradoxes of contemporary politics confronted not only with authoritarian resilience, political illiberalism and personalist rule but also of the enduring nondemocratic psychological disposition among citizens in settings with troubled democratic transitions.