Trust, hope and democratic governance project

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Project leader(s)

This project examines the role of trust and hope in governance. The central hypothesis is that trust and hope build social capacity and enable cooperation. At the heart of the project is motivational posturing theory. Motivational posturing theory explains responses to government authority of disengagement, game playing, resistance, capitulation and commitment as ways of dealing with the sacrifice of individual freedom. Between 1999 and 2005, these issues were addressed within the context of taxation: What makes people accept the obligation to pay tax even when it is possible to evade or avoid payment? More recently, a series of surveys have been conducted to examine the ways in which citizens posture to government and government postures to citizens. Further project information available here.

Survey data from any of the surveys below is available on request (

Trust and taxes

In 2000, 2002 and 2005, three surveys were conducted on taxation and governance. These surveys established the connections that the community make between quality of governance and the taxes they pay. See the ‘Resources’ section for findings and outcomes.

In 2000, ‘The Community Participation and Citizenship Survey’ was conducted to better understand how people developed a sense of obligation to be a good citizen and to pay tax. Trust in family, work mates, neighbours, local institutions and government institutions all were implicated in the development of a sense of obligation to others and to the community as a whole (Job, 2004, 2007). See the ‘Resources’ section for findings and outcomes.

Hope and economic wellbeing

In 2003, a survey of Australians was conducted to better understand people’s hopes and the degree to which such hopes were fuelled or restricted by their economic well-being. These data showed how grievance and competitiveness undermined trust and cooperation in government and was associated with distancing from socially shared moral standards. Illegitimate means were acceptable for achieving legitimate social goals (Braithwaite, 2009b).

Democratic governance and disillusionment

In 2005, a survey was conducted of what Australian thought of their democracy and its future. 87% of Australians are disillusioned with their democracy. The question is why. Too often people see few benefits associated with government activity, they question the justice and fairness of implementation and outcomes, and they do not always feel a moral obligation to comply with government expectations. Within a democracy, not everyone can be a winner every time, but people need to know that they have been listened to and their positions considered. Our work on ‘the wheel of social alignments’ sets out to define the issues that need to be central to any conversation between the people and their government, employer or authority of any kind - honest, inclusive and contestable conversations about benefits, justice and fairness, and obligation (Braithwaite, 2009b).

All project information relating to the Centre for Tax System Integrity is now available via the external website archive.

Trust and taxes

Braithwaite, Valerie (2009a) Attitudes to tax policy: politics, self-interest and social values, CSTI Research Note, no. 9, ANU, Canberra.

Braithwaite, Valerie (2009b) ‘The value balance model and democratic governance’, Psychological Inquiry, 20(2): 87-97.

Braithwaite, Valerie (2001) Preliminary findings from the Community Hopes, Fears and Actions Survey, CTSI Working Paper, no. 13, ANU, Canberra

Braithwaite, Valerie and Monika Reinhart (2005a) Preliminary findings and codebook for the Australian Tax System: Fair or Not Survey, CTSI Working Paper 79, ANU, Canberra.

Braithwaite, Valerie and Monika Reinhart (2005b) Preliminary findings and codebook for the How Fair, How Effective Survey: The Collection and Use of Taxation in Australia, CTSI Working Paper, no. 84, ANU, Canberra.

Job, Jenny (2006) ‘Building social and political trust: The role of civic engagement’, The International Scope Review 8(13):1-23.

Job, Jenny (2005) ‘How is trust in government created? It begins at home, but ends in the parliament’, Australian Review of Public Affairs 6(1): 1–23.

Job, Jenny and Monika Reinhart (2003) ‘Trusting the Tax Office: Does Putnam’s thesis relate to tax?’, Australian Journal of Social Issues 38(3): 307-334.


Image: Emeritus Professor Valerie Braithwaite

Valerie Braithwaite

Valerie Braithwaite is an interdisciplinary social scientist with a disciplinary background in psychology. She has taught in social and clinical psychology programs at undergraduate and graduate...

Dr Jenny Job

Jenny Job is currently Director of Research and Evaluation in Safe Work Australia, an Australian Government statutory agency with the primary responsibility of improving work health and safety and...

 Society, safety and health cluster hero

Society, safety and health

The Society, Safety and Health cluster has four research themes:

  • Policy processes and the social determinants of health inequities
  • Governance for health equity
  • Food systems, nutrition and climate change
  • Regulation and governance of health care systems

Updated:  10 August 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, RegNet/Page Contact:  Director, RegNet