Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2349801
 


 



Surfacing the Submerged State: Operational Transparency Increases Trust in and Engagement with Government


Ryan W. Buell


Harvard Business School

Ethan Porter


University of Chicago; George Washington University

Michael I. Norton


Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit

March 14, 2016

Harvard Business School Marketing Unit Working Paper No. 14-034
Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 14-034

Abstract:     
As Americans' trust in government nears historic lows, frustration with government performance approaches record highs. We propose that Americans’ views of government can be reshaped by increasing government’s operational transparency – that is, the extent to which citizens can see the often-hidden work that government performs. Across three studies using laboratory and field data, increasing operational transparency improves citizens’ views of and increases engagement with government. In Study 1 (N=554), viewing a five-minute computer simulation highlighting the work performed by the government of an archetypal American town – from building roads to ensuring food safety – increased trust in government and support for government services. In Study 2 (N=125), Boston residents who interacted with a website that visualizes both citizens’ service requests – such as potholes and broken streetlamps – and efforts by city government to address them became more trusting and supportive of government. Study 3 (N=21,986) was a natural experiment using data from a mobile phone application through which Boston residents submit service requests to their city government. Users who viewed photos of the city workers responding to their service requests were more likely to continue using the app over the ensuing 13 months, demonstrating that operational transparency led to sustained engagement with government.


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Date posted: November 6, 2013 ; Last revised: March 15, 2016

Suggested Citation

Buell, Ryan W. and Porter, Ethan and Norton, Michael I., Surfacing the Submerged State: Operational Transparency Increases Trust in and Engagement with Government (March 14, 2016). Harvard Business School Marketing Unit Working Paper No. 14-034; Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 14-034. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2349801 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2349801

Contact Information

Ryan W. Buell
Harvard Business School ( email )
Soldiers Field Road
Morgan Hall 429
Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-496-6918 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.hbs.edu/rbuell
Ethan Porter
University of Chicago ( email )
George Washington University ( email )
2121 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20052
United States
Michael I. Norton (Contact Author)
Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit ( email )
Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States
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