The limits of cyberattacks in eroding political trust: A tripartite survey experiment

Sharon Matzkin, Ryan Shandler, Daphna Canetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

To what extent do security threats – such as cyberattacks – undermine trust in government? Fears have emerged that cyberattacks undercut public trust in government and sow doubt in democratic institutions heavily dependent on digitised systems. Nevertheless, the logic of this threat remains untested. This article presents survey experiments conducted in the United States (n = 607), the United Kingdom (n = 594), and Israel (n = 627) that examine whether cyberattacks on critical infrastructure truly undermine public trust in government and, if so, by what psychological mechanism. We exposed participants to simulations of cyberattacks against critical infrastructure before measuring the psychological and political outcomes. Our results reveal that cyberattacks do not undermine voters’ trust in the government’s ability to protect them. Furthermore, in the United States, exposure to cyberattacks heightens public trust by amplifying anger. Our findings inject a missing comparative component to the theoretical discussion of when, why, and how cyberattacks affect public trust in government.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.

Keywords

  • cyberattacks
  • exposure to terrorism
  • national security threats
  • psychological distress
  • public trust in government
  • survey experiment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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