This paper examines the effect of citizens’ perceived salience of inequality on political trust in East Asian new democracies. The link between inequality and trust in new democracies has yet to receive appropriate attention in empirical research. We argue that citizens’ perceived salience of inequality has a trust-eroding effect where increasing inequality is a politically salient issue and there is a norm of fairness among the citizenry. When citizens perceive that the government and political elites are responding to the citizens’ demand for fair shares, citizens’ political trust increases. Our analysis of the 2006 Asia Barometer data finds that perceived salience of inequality has a negative effect on political trust among the citizens in Taiwan, but not in Korea. Our results suggest that the political salience of inequality on citizens’ minds is of crucial importance for political trust and political consequences of inequality has to do with the pace of rising inequality and the norms of distributive justice.
Keywords: Inequality, Political trust, Democracy, Governance, East Asia