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Does transparent government agencies strengthen trust?

By S.G. Grimmelikhuijsen


Trust in government has been shown to be volatile in recent years and Internet transparency is seen as a solution to strengthen trust. However, critics argue that transparency will only lead to less trust, and sceptics say that it has no effect at all. This debate on transparency is lacking empirical information, and therefore central to this article is to what extent transparency influences trust. Three dimensions of trust are distinguished: the competence, benevolence and honesty of the government agency in question. To examine whether Internet transparency affects these dimensions, an experimental design was used which compared results from three groups of volunteers. The groups were given varying amounts of prior information regarding the government agency, ranging from much to none. Results showed that the relationship between Internet transparency and these dimensions of trust is not unequivocal. Perceptions of benevolence and honesty are affected by the level of transparency, while perceptions of competence remain stable. Hence, a heterogeneous effect of transparency on trust is demonstrated. This calls for a more refined view in the debate on this relationship; this study offers a beginning point for more detailed insight in the various effects of transparency on trust

Topics: International
Year: 2009
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