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Political Cynicism

Claes H. de Vreese


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Political cynicism is recognized as an important political sentiment. However, there is little agreement about the nature, measurement, and consequences of political cynicism. Webster's Dictionary defines a cynic as “one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest. A person who expects nothing but the worst of human conduct and motives.” Cappella and Jamieson (1997 , 166) defined political cynicism as “mistrust generalized from particular leaders or political groups to the political process as a whole – a process perceived to corrupt the persons who participate in it and that draws corrupt persons as participants.” Cynicism has been defined as oppositional to →  political efficacy (e.g., Niemi et al. 1991 ) and as inversely related to trust in different social, economic, and political institutions. Political cynicism has different dimensions and can be considered in relation to various objects. Cynicism as absence of trust has been treated at the level of the institutions of government and the regime as a whole (e.g., Miller 1974 ). It has also been conceptualized as negativism and disapproval at the level of candidates and incumbent political leaders (e.g., Citrin 1974 ). Erber and Lau (1990) also stress a distinction between political cynicism directed toward persons on the one hand and toward issues and institutions on the other. An additional ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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