Public Administrators' Trust in Citizens: A Missing Link in Citizen Involvement Efforts

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Abstract

An important but unattended consideration in citizen participation efforts is whether public officials trust citizens and, if not, whether they can formulate and implement policies that really engage, empower, and emancipate citizens. This study attempts to answer four questions: Is public officials' trust in citizens relevant and important? Is it a valid construct that can be differentiated from other constructs? What factors influence its level? And how does trust influence citizen involvement efforts? Based on a survey of 320 public administrators, the study finds that public administrators' trust in citizens is a relevant and valid construct and a predictor of proactive citizen involvement efforts. Public administrators generally have a neutral (neither trustful nor distrustful) view of citizens. Finally, factors affecting the level of trust are identified at the individual, organizational, and societal levels.

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