Low Scores for White House on Transparency

The public isn’t convinced that the government is open with Americans, according to a new survey. The ForeSee Results / Nextgov Government Transparency Study measured citizen perceptions of government transparency with the White House and Congress, among other government entities.

The White House earned a 46 on the study’s 100-point scale for its efforts to be transparent about what it is doing; federal agencies overall scored a 40, and Congress was at the bottom with a score of 37, nine points below the White House score.

To measure perceptions of transparency, ForeSee Results asked people to evaluate the White House, Congress, and other private- and public-sector organizations on three aspects of transparency (as defined by the Executive Memo on Transparency and Open Government released nearly two years ago):  the thoroughness of information disclosure, the speed with which it is released, and the ease of accessing it.

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The White House came out on top of every category measured, including transparency, citizen satisfaction, trust, accountability, perceived goodwill, competence, and integrity.

Congress had the lowest scores of any government entity in each of these categories, though it did surpass three of the four government-regulated private industries that were measured purely to provide a benchmark and comparison score for government. 

The industries were chosen for study because of their history of transparency issues and frequent news coverage, according to ForeSee Results.

Transparency Scores for Government Entities:

  • White House: 46
  • Government Overall: 42
  • Agencies and Departments Overall: 40
  • Congress: 37

Transparency Scores for Government-Regulated Private Industries:

  • Airlines: 38 (the only private industry to score higher than Congress)
  • Banking: 32
  • Healthcare: 32
  • Oil and Gas: 30

“While a score of 46 on a 100-point scale is hardly anything to write home about, I do give the White House some credit,” said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results and author of the study. 

“The White House is the only branch of government making any proactive or quantifiable attempts at transparency, which are clearly paying modest dividends, because the executive branch not only has the highest transparency scores, but has the highest scores for citizen satisfaction, trust, integrity, and competence.”

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The study found that demographics played a hand in transparency ratings.

People giving higher transparency ratings have a tendency to be Democrats, liberal, and urban, and they tend to rely on social media, MSNBC, and the Daily Show for information about government. 

On the other hand, people giving lower transparency scores tend to be Republican, conservative, rural, religious, and rely on FOXNews for information about government.

“This suggests to me that in some cases, views on transparency are as heavily influenced by personal views and experiences as by the actions of the government,” said Tom Shoop, editor-in-chief, Government Executive Media Group (Nextgov’s parent organization). 

Nextgov partnered with ForeSee Results’ for the research and analysis.

In a coordinated report, ForeSee Results released transparency scores for 30 individual federal websites.

The study shows that the average transparency score for government websites is 75.8, up nearly a point since last quarter. 

While not directly analogous to the White House’s score of 46 or the Congress’ score of 37, e-government clearly provides a tremendous opportunity to increase both actual transparency and citizen perceptions of it, believes ForeSee Results.

“Websites provide such a huge opportunity when it comes to open government,” added Freed.

“Government organizations can increase trust, participation, and collaboration just by boosting adaptation, sophistication, and effectiveness of e-gov initiatives, which will make government more democratic, accountable, effective, and cost-efficient.”

The Foresee / Nextgov Government Transparency Study surveyed 5,107 people online at random from August 25-September 4, 2010.  Answers to the survey were then run through the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) statistical model to generate a numerical score.

The survey findings were released Wednesday, Oct. 20.

As an agency for customer satisfaction measurement, ForeSee Results captures and analyzes customer data to help both private-sector and public-sector organizations increase loyalty, recommendations and marketing value. It is a privately held company headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Nextgov.com is a leading federal technology web site targeting federal decision makers.

Photo courtesy: Nextgov

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