How are corruption and mistrust in political institutions related to each other? Does corruption produce mistrust, or does mistrust produce corruption? Using Afrobarometer survey data, this paper investigates the relationship between corruption and trust in institutions . We will argue that political corruption worsens governmental performance, thus reducing popular trust in institutions ’ capacity to address citizens’ demands. In addition, lack of trust in institutions actually favors corruption insofar as it transforms citizens into clients and bribers who use patronage networks to gain access to rent-seeking decision-makers. The relationship between corruption and popular trust in institutions is therefore not one in which the direction of causality may be easily traced. On the contrary, corruption and mistrust feed each other, producing vicious circles. For example, corruption makes informal institutions the most effective means by which to obtain goods and services, which in turn increases levels of corruption.