By Mark Dovich
“Significant increase in public trust in state institutions” is what the latest data from the Caucasus Barometer shows, more than two years after the 2018 Velvet Revolution ushered in dramatic changes to the country’s domestic political landscape. The annual household survey—and the largest coordinated data collection effort in the South Caucasus—was last conducted in Armenia from February 21 to March 15, 2020 by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers think tank network.
When asked about each of the 15 state institutions included in the survey, as well as two major international organizations, the EU and the UN, respondents expressed significant increase in public trust in each institution. According to the 2020 survey, any given institution experienced an average increase in public trust of nearly 16 percentage points since the previous wave of the survey, which was conducted from October 13 to October 27, 2017.
Five institutions saw increases in public trust of more than 15 percentage points between 2017 and 2020: local government (increase in trust by 18 points), the police (22 points), the president (60 points), executive government (50 points), and the National Assembly (27 points).
As a result of such dramatic increases, there are now seven institutions in Armenia that enjoy the trust of the majority of the general public: the educational system (with 51 percent of respondents expressing trust), the army (88 percent), executive government (71 percent), the president (78 percent), the police (51 percent), local government (51 percent), and religious institutions (80 percent). In contrast, only the army and religious institutions registered majorities of public trust in 2017, with 77 percent and 74 percent, respectively.
At the same time, the survey makes it clear that the Armenian public remains distrustful of key institutions, with the plurality of respondents still expressing distrust in the banking system (40 percent), the court system (48 percent), and political parties (45 percent).
Nonetheless, the survey shows that, overall, significant progress has been made since the 2018 Velvet Revolution in overcoming deep historical distrust in state institutions among the Armenian general public that predates the country’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Social science research has consistently found that public trust “is a necessary element for a society to prosper,” with high levels of public trust contributing to democratic stability, economic development, and social integration. Though Armenia’s post-Velvet Revolution government still has a long way to go in enacting policies that meet citizens’ sky-high expectations for reform, the survey makes it clear that real, significant, systemic change has occurred since 2018.
The army and religious institutions have long been the most trusted state institutions in Armenia.
Since 2017, levels of public trust in the president and executive government have increased most sharply among all the institutions included in the survey.
Trust (%, 2020)
Distrust (%, 2020)
“Neither trust, nor distrust” (%, 2020)
|“Do not know” or refuse to answer (%, 2020)|
Reported levels of public trust in institutions, 2020.
Trust (%, 2020)
|Trust (%, 2017)|
Improvement in public trust in institutions from 2017 to 2020.