by Larry Freed
The public isn’t convinced that the government is open with Americans, at least according to our latest research. The ForeSee Results/Nextgov Government Transparency Study measured citizen perceptions of government transparency with the White House and Congress, among other government entities.
Americans give Congress terrible scores in terms of transparency and trust. The White House scores much better, but can hardly be characterized as a raging success. On the study’s 100-point scale, the White House scored a 46 and Congress scored a 37 in terms of transparency (defined as thoroughness of information disclosure, the speed at which it is released, and the ease of accessing it publicly). The report is based on a national survey of 5,107 respondents.
Transparency Scores for Government Entities:
• White House: 46
• Government Overall: 42
• Agencies and Departments Overall: 40
• Congress: 37
Transparency Scores for Government-Regulated Private Industries:
• Airlines: 38 (the only private industry to score higher than Congress)
• Banking: 32
• Healthcare: 32
• Oil and Gas: 30
The bright spot in government transparency comes from e-Government and federal government websites. The 30 federal websites that are measuring online transparency average 75.8.up nearly one point since last quarter. All 30 scores are included in the full report.
Here are some other highlights:
- There is a clear and proven relationship between transparency, satisfaction, and trust. The research shows that higher transparency leads to higher citizen satisfaction with government, which in turn leads to higher trust.
- The White House has the highest scores and Congress has the lowest scores in every measured category. When it comes to transparency, citizen satisfaction, trust, accountability, perceived goodwill, competence, and integrity, American citizens give Congress the worst scores across the board.
- Demographics matter. People giving higher transparency, satisfaction, and trust ratings often fall along traditional demographic lines: they are likely to be Democrats, liberal, urban, and they rely more heavily on social media, MSNBC, daily newspapers, the Daily Show, and government websites for information about government. People giving lower transparency scores tend to be Republican, conservative, rural or suburban, and rely on FOX News for information about government. The finding suggests that perceptions of government transparency are filtered through personal views and experiences.
- Americans may be blaming government for tough times. Nearly one-third of the respondents lost their jobs or had a spouse who had lost a job in the last two years. A quarter of the respondents experienced a large drop in investments, and thirty-nine percent said their friends or family had lost a home. Compared to just a year ago, half of the respondents said their level of trust in the government is lower.
- E-Government provides a critical path forward. While this study shows government entities with scores in the 30s and 40s, a typical federal government website garners online transparency scores in the 70s or 80s. While not directly analogous, e-government clearly provides a tremendous opportunity to increase both the reality and perceptions of transparency, leading to a more democratic government through increased citizen trust and participation.