Initiatives, public trust, and citizen engagement during crises: A comparative analysis across Baltic states


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The purpose of this study is to investigate the interplay between government initiatives, public trust in government, and citizen engagement within the context of two distinct crisis scenarios: a global health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and an international security crisis caused by Russian aggression against Ukraine. A two-stage biennial survey methodology is used to collect quantitative data. In the first phase, which took place in the context of a global health crisis, an omnibus survey was conducted, involving a randomly selected sample of 3,175 respondents from three Baltic countries: Estonia (n = 1002), Latvia (n = 1017), and Lithuania (n = 1006). In the second stage, which took place in the context of an international security crisis, a random sample was carried out of 2026 respondents from two Baltic countries: Estonia (n = 1002) and Lithuania (n = 1024). The analysis examined causal relationships in political, rational, and social trust.
The findings reveal that the relationship between trust in the government and government initiatives that foster political, rational, or emotional trust is stronger during international security crises than during health crises. This means that citizens perceive government behavior as more credible in the context of external security threats. Research on the interaction between government behavior and citizen participation is more nuanced than on public trust. In general, government initiatives have a greater impact on citizen participation than public trust in both crises. This highlights the positive impact of government initiatives in cooperation with the population.

The study is financed from the funds of the study-supporting project “Research on the Management of Security and Defense Institutions of Small States” (General Jonas Žemaitis Lithuanian Military Academy, 2020-12-17, No. V-828).

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    • Figure 1. Research model
    • Table 1. Demographic characteristics of the Baltic countries
    • Table 2. Optimal sample size for the study
    • Table 3. Deviations in trust means across socio-demographic characteristics in 2021 and 2022
    • Table 4. Variables reliability
    • Table 5. Correlation matrix
    • Conceptualization
      Rasa Smaliukienė, Tomas Vedlūga, Vidmantė Giedraitytė
    • Data curation
      Rasa Smaliukienė, Tomas Vedlūga, Vidmantė Giedraitytė
    • Formal Analysis
      Rasa Smaliukienė, Tomas Vedlūga
    • Investigation
      Rasa Smaliukienė, Tomas Vedlūga, Vidmantė Giedraitytė
    • Methodology
      Rasa Smaliukienė, Tomas Vedlūga
    • Resources
      Rasa Smaliukienė, Tomas Vedlūga, Vidmantė Giedraitytė
    • Supervision
      Rasa Smaliukienė, Vidmantė Giedraitytė
    • Validation
      Rasa Smaliukienė, Tomas Vedlūga
    • Visualization
      Rasa Smaliukienė, Tomas Vedlūga, Vidmantė Giedraitytė
    • Writing – original draft
      Rasa Smaliukienė, Tomas Vedlūga, Vidmantė Giedraitytė
    • Software
      Tomas Vedlūga
    • Funding acquisition
      Vidmantė Giedraitytė
    • Project administration
      Vidmantė Giedraitytė
    • Writing – review & editing
      Vidmantė Giedraitytė