Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods
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Building Trust? Institutions and interactions of multi-level governance in the UK, Germany and France

Work Package 2.4

Funder: ESRC

Start date: October 2016

End date: September 2019

Research team

Alistair Cole & Ian Stafford (Cardiff University)


This project will utilise a mixed-methods design incorporating interviews, focus groups, a scoping analysis of secondary quantitative data and a cross-national survey to explore the role of trust and transparency within the context of multi-level governance. The core research question focuses on the extent to which a pan-European convergence in norms of trust has emerged and its relationship to transparency. The research will examine the interplay of trust and transparency within and between three EU states: the UK, France and Germany. Within each state the project will focus on one strong identity and one ‘instrumental’ region to explore the impact of factors such as varying identities, institutional configurations and resource profiles on trust and transparency.

A mixed methods research design will allow associations between multi-level governance and trust to be mapped comparatively
1). National Trust Profiles: quantitative scoping analysis - The RA will undertake secondary quantitative scoping analysis of the three EU member-states, with a view to compiling a cross-national ‘trust’ profile, designed to elicit variation in attitudes towards political institutions and policy arenas.
2). Regional Trust Profiles - The project will add value by undertaking a cross-national representative survey, with a target of 1000 individuals in each of our six regions, to be carried out as an online survey.
3). Qualitative data analysis: comparing policy communities and focus groups
The project will conduct semi-structured interviews with 72 actors in the UK, France and Germany. Interviews will occur with comparable members of the policy community in six regions on the basis of a semi-structured interview schedule that links trust and transparency to scalar preferences, institutional configurations, identity mixes, and perceptions of social and cultural capital and output legitimacy. Around 60 semi-structured interviews will take place across the six regions (10 per region), along with 4 interviews to capture the national and supranational levels in each country) (total 72 interviews). Interviewees in Wales, Saxony, Brittany, South-West England, Ile-de-France and Hesse will be drawn from functionally equivalent panels, determined via purposive sampling. Focus groups will allow for visual and oral comparisons of observable interactions in similar conditions in our regions. We propose to convene two groups in each region, to be held in short succession of each other, hence 12 groups in total.

Research Questions

  • Is there a pan-European convergence in norms of trust? 
  • Are certain types of democratic polity/national systems of multi-level governance better equipped to retain trust than others? 
  • Are trusting relationships related to national systems of multi-level governance, and the emphasis they place on the scale of governance or the proximity of decision-making? 
  • Does Europeanisation engender more distant relationships across the policy spectrum? Or are these sentiments played out differentially according to the field of policy intervention?


  • In the medium term, the research will be disseminated widely through working papers and practitioner briefings in French, German and English (as set out in the previous section), standard academic publications, the deposition of a cross-national dataset in the WISERD Data archive.
  • Published outputs will include a project monograph in English, at least five refereed journal articles (targets are Journal of European Public Policy, Comparative Political Studies,  European Journal of Political Research, British Journal of Political Science, West European Politics  and Political Studies), and an electronic database, made accessible via the WISERD Dataportal
  • The PI or CI will attend – and present papers or organise panels – at the following UK and international conferences:  RSA, 2016, ECPR 2017, IPSA 2018. Early publication of a practitioner focussed publication Wales, the United Kingdom and Europe: Europeanising Devolution (ISBN: 978-0-85672-608-8 ) jointly produced by the British Academy and the Learned Society of Wales, gives an indication of the engagement with practitioners in advance of the formal project. 
  • Longer-term impact will be measured in terms of enhanced inter-cultural communication and policy transfer. Dissemination will continue beyond the formal end of the project. 



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