Public Trust in the European Legal Systems: Independence, Accountability, and Awareness
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Description: Two main findings stand out in the literature on public attitudes vis-à-vis courts. The first, from comparative studies, is that judicial independence fosters public trust. The second, from the American literature, is that there is a positive relationship between citizens’ awareness and support for courts. We take this a starting point to ask three questions. First, what might be the role of judicial accountability in fostering public trust, above and beyond that played by independence? Second, are all citizens equally sensitive to those properties of the judicial system? Finally, is it plausible that ‘to know courts is to love them’, or is that contingent upon the legal system’s properties? We answer these questions resorting to recently available macro-level indicators of judicial independence and accountability and to the high-quality survey data collected by the European Social Survey in 32 countries, from more than 300,000 respondents throughout more than a decade.