Politics in Southeast Asia are often characterised by power abuses and corrupt practices, ramshackle political institutions, economic shocks, social inequities, and a steady erosion of cultural deference. In these conditions, mass-level mistrust of political leaders and institutions might be expected to surge. However, patterns of mistrust turn out to be more complex. Where political leaders are abusive and corrupt, while doing little to ease the declining fortunes of social forces, mistrust does indeed grow pervasive, even threatening political stability. But in other cases, political leaders, even though abusive, have ably mitigated mistrust, shifting mass-level grievances onto rival elites or social segments, deploying populist programs, or mobilising nationalist resentments, thereby perpetuating their standings. Analysis focuses on a number of contemporary leaderships in Southeast Asia that have produced variable amounts of mass-level mistrust, including those of Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore.