Terry Kinder Fundamentals of Public Administration Article Review D-10 Tolbert, Caroline and Mossberger, Karen, “The Effects of E-Government

on Trust and Commitment,” Public Administration Review, vol. 66 (May/June 2006), pp.354-369. Tolbert and Mossberger examine whether e-government can reverse the decline of public trust in government that began in the mid-1960s. The issue of public trust in government is important because high, sustained levels of distrust can erode the rule of law and ultimately undermine the legitimacy of the government. While there are a number of possible reasons for this decline in trust, ranging from Vietnam and Watergate to economic factors, as well as perceptions that government is wasteful and inefficient, none of these reasons considered either separately, or together, can account for the current high level of public distrust of government. In the past, scholars viewed trust in terms of policy and electoral outcomes. However, recent research indicates that citizens also consider whether the process utilized to arrive at those decisions was fair, open and responsive, and that their perceptions influence their decision to trust or not trust the government. Underlying distrust of government is a perception that it is no longer responsive to citizens. Citizens want the decision-making process to be more open and allow for greater participation. E-government has been offered as a means to foster increased communication between the people and government. Two models of e-government have been proposed – an entrepreneurial model and a participatory model. The entrepreneurial model (reinventing government) is based on business and aims to enhance efficiency and customer service. The participatory approach seeks public participation and dialogue as a means of increasing government accountability, transparency and responsiveness. There are six possible benefits of e-government that could result in increased confidence and trust. They are increased responsiveness, enhanced accessibility, transparency, responsibility, efficiency and effectiveness, and participation. The first two are process-based and consist of repeated interactions between government and individuals that deliver some benefit. The second two are institution-based and reflect public opinion of whether the government is acting correctly. The last two are a combination of both institution-based and process-based forms of trust. So far, governments have preferred the entrepreneurial over the participatory implementation of egovernment. Three hypotheses were tested by Tolbert and Mossberger. First, that using government web sites increased perceptions of transparency and effectiveness of government; government accessibility, and government responsiveness. Second, more favorable evaluations of government by citizens would lead to increased trust. Third, since e-government is more widespread and advanced at the federal level, favorable attitudes would most likely convert to trust first for the federal government, followed by state, and then local government. Statistical analysis showed that using government web sites increased perceptions of government transparency, effectiveness, accessibility and responsibility. The second hypothesis that more favorable evaluations of government would lead to increased trust also found support, although limited solely to local government. As for the third hypothesis, favorable attitudes toward government did not lead to trust at the state or federal level, but did at the local level. Trust of local government may owe to its relative proximity to the people and the direct nature of the benefits it delivers. The relatively large distance separating people from their state government and the federal government may make building trust more difficult. Another possible explanation is that distrust, especially of the federal government, is so great that it will require more than the present e-government initiatives to overcome. Process-based measures were the only ones effective at building increased trust. In the future, government agencies should consider email and other online transactions in order to increase process-based trust. Participatory opportunities such as chats and bulletin boards should also be considered.