It is hard to assess without reading the document, but this new report seems to make a unique contribution to our understanding about the link between online transparency on federal web sites and perceptions of trust in government by the public.
A market research firm asked people who visited one of 14 federal web sites about how they felt about data availability on the site and how they perceived what the agency does.
Researchers asked users questions related to how thoroughly the sites disclosed information about what the agency is doing, how quickly information was made available online and how accessible that information was on the sites. The answers were then run through the ACSI statistical engine to generate a score on transparency. Many agencies already measure satisfaction with their sites using the ACSI e-government index.
The transparency project surveyed more than 36,000 citizens who visited 14 federal sites during the fourth quarter of 2009. The aggregate transparency score was 75 on a 100-point scale. The authors acknowledged that there are thousands of federal sites beyond the 14 that volunteered to participate. “Even those that appear to have lower scores in this short list of 14 would certainly be nowhere near the bottom of the pack in a comprehensive index of federal government online transparency,” the report states.
The study found that citizens who believe a site is highly transparent are 46 percent more likely to trust the overall government.
Citizens who believe a site is highly transparent are 46 percent more likely to trust the overall government, 49 percent more likely to use the site as a primary resource and 37 percent more likely to return to the site, according to the study.
“We have always assumed that greater transparency [and] more openness in government would link to greater satisfaction and higher trust in government,” said Dave McClure, GSA’s associate administrator for its Office of Citizen Services and Communications, who also was briefed on the results. “What this study does is help confirm that.”