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Trust in State Authority and Non-State Actors: Pilot Study

What makes for a well-functioning state? The foremost factor is trust of the citizenry in the state. This is so because the legitimacy of state institutions enhances the state’s ability to raise revenue and to provide public goods and services, which affect the overall economic and social development of a country. Yet in many countries people are switching their allegiance from the state to various non-state actors, ranging from traditional elites to religious groups and paramilitaries. For instance, citizens unwilling to pay taxes continue to support services provided by non-state actors through private philanthropic contributions. Does this growing lack of trust in state institutions and shift of allegiance towards non-state actors imply weakening of these institutions that may ultimately result in state failure? What are the major factors contributing to this shift in trust from state to non-state actors? One set of explanations for this phenomenon argues that these changes are structural and can be explained by ideological shifts among the citizenry of these countries. An alternative explanation blames the lack of trust of the citizenry in the state on the negative behavior of state actors that gives the state a reputation of exploiting rather than providing public goods and order. This creates a belief dynamic that shifts allegiance away from state to non-state actors when there is actual or perceived information that state actors are corrupt or exploitative. This project aims to explore these issues in the Pakistani context. The main question it seeks to address is: Does actual or perceived negative behavior by state actors strengthen the belief that citizens should seek the authority of alternative actors and does it affect the actions of the citizens? Based on the success of this pilot study, IDEAS will undertake a larger study in collaboration with a team of researchers from MIT and Harvard to try and empirically understand this issue.