Public trust of federal government has increased

Thursday - 5/20/2010, 4:18pm EDT

The Open Government Directive matters to more than just federal agencies. It's actually affected the way the general public views the federal government as a whole.

ForeSee Results just released a new quarterly survey that looked at citizens' perspectives of federal government websites.

CEO Larry Freed explains that they decided to look at transparency and openness because there's been a lot of talk about the importance of transparency, but not a lot of discussion about how to quantify it.

"We feel very strongly that you really can't manage what you don't measure. Some thoughts were counting how much data is put up and made available to people via websites and other forms, but we really thought that was the wrong way to look at transparency. Ultimately, transparency is about the citizens' perception. Is the information made to them? Is it through? Is it accessible? Is it timely?"

ForeSee Results took info from past surveys they had conducted and added additional questions.

Freed says, according to the public, it looks like government agencies are doing well so far when it comes to being open.

"There were 23 different sites that participated and were measured in transparecny. They really represented all different kinds of sites -- from top-level websites like state.gov [and] data.gov, to very specific websites, like substance abuse and mental health services administration. With those 23 websites, we had a total of 54,000 citizens that participated. . . . On a scale of 0 to 100, the aggregate score was 76."

When compared with past data, Freed says there has been a slight increase in the public's perception about transparency.

In the grand scheme of things, a person's perception of transparency correlates with his or her overall idea about government.

"We found that it really did make a difference. We looked at it across all 54,000 citizens that participated and we broke it down to looking at those that felt that the transparency level was very, very good, which would mean a score of 80 or above, and compared those to the ones that had a very poor view of transparency, below 70. . . . We found that the citizens that felt that their experiences had a high level of transparency were significantly more satisfied than those that had low transparency scores. [They] were also 50 percent more likely to have a high level of trust in government."

The more open a government agency is, the more it seems that the public trusts it.

The survey results can also be used by federal agencies to improve their transparency and save money.

Freed explains that, the more people trust an organization, the more likely they are to use that organization's website as a primary resource -- and doing business online can save everyone involved time, which many equate with money.

"If we can get the information we need quickly and easily and trust it from government websites, that is the most efficient way. It truly is a win-win. It's a win from improving the information and confidence that citizens have and their trust in government; it's a win from [the perspective] of the agencies, because they're able to put out more information in a better way; and, it's a win from a taxpayer perspective because it's much more cost-effective."

Read more about ForeSee Results:

Satisfaction with federal government websites at all-time high

Agency transparency on the Web leads to citizen trust

Federal e-customers get satisfaction

Public ranks government healthcare Web sites high in new report