Public Information, Public Learning, and Public Opinion: Democratic Accountability in Education Policy
49 Pages Posted: 27 May 2012
Date Written: May 27, 2012
Theories of political accountability rest on the assumption that citizens use information about the performance of government to hold public officials accountable, but citizens’ utilization of such information is difficult to directly examine. We take advantage of the importance of citizen-driven, performance based accountability for education policy in Tennessee to conduct a survey experiment that identifies the effect of new information, mistaken beliefs, and differing considerations on the evaluation of public officials and policy reforms using 1,500 Tennesseans. We show that despite an emphasis on reporting outcomes for school accountability policies in the state, mistaken beliefs are prevalent and produce overly optimistic assessments of the institutions responsible for statewide education policy. However, individuals’ update their assessments of these institutions in an unbiased way when provided with objective performance data. Finally, support for specific policies intended to improve performance is unchanged by the information and more dependent on existing ideological commitments.
Keywords: education policy, public opinion, accountability, survey experiment
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