Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Gill, Duane A.

Committee Member

Parisi, Domenico.

Committee Member

Hempel, Lynn.

Committee Member

Blanchard, Troy.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work


Contemporary United States has witnessed a gradual shift of political responsibilities to local communities. This shift creates opportunities for a greater sense of democracy among individuals in local communities. This dissertation explores how elements of social capital and civic engagement support participatory democratic processes, and ultimately improve the quality of democracy for individuals. The central premise of this research is that democracy satisfaction includes the ability to influence decisions for individual and community benefits. Thus individuals who possess social capital and actively participate in civic life are likely to experience democracy satisfaction. Trust is specified as a primary social capital measure. Thus, the extent to which ?generalized trust? and ?particularized trust? account for differences in the levels of individual satisfaction with democracy is examined. A parsimonious typology is developed in which four categories of trusters (total trusters, general trusters, particular trusters, and skeptics) are delineated and empirically tested. Three categories of civic engagement; local political, representative and altruistic civic engagement are also differentiated and tested for their explanatory value for democracy satisfaction. To achieve this, data from the 2000 American National Election Study were used in logistics regression models. The study confirms the notion that while trust is important when it comes to democracy satisfaction, it is generalized trust (total and general trusters), rather than particularized trust (particular trusters, and skeptics) that is more important in predicting democracy satisfaction. The results also show that not all forms of civic engagement predict democracy satisfaction. While representative civic engagement and giving to charity have positive effects on democracy satisfaction, local political civic engagement and volunteering time do not significantly predict satisfaction with democracy. With reference to altruistic civic engagement, results show that giving to charity has a positive effect on democracy satisfaction, but not volunteering time. It is concluded that participatory democracy is impeded in communities with strong particularized trust and limited generalized trust. The study points to futures research opportunities to ascertain the extent to which types of trust and civic engagement are pertinent factors in explaining development efforts in local communities that are deficient in civic culture and participatory democracy.