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The Effects of E-Government on Trust and Confidence in Government


Caroline J. Tolbert is an associate professor of political science at Kent State University and coauthor of Virtual Inequality: Beyond the Digital Divide (Georgetown University Press, 2003). Her research examines voting, elections and public opinion, direct democracy, technology and electoral politics, and race and ethnicity. She is the coauthor of Educated by Initiative: The Effects of Direct Democracy on Citizens and Political Organizations (2004) and coeditor of Citizens as Legislators: Direct Democracy in the United States (1998).

Karen Mossberger is an associate professor of public administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago and coauthor of Virtual Inequality: Beyond the Digital Divide (Georgetown University Press, 2003). Her research interests include information technology, urban public policy, economic development, and policy learning and diffusion. She has published previously in the Public Administration Review.


Trust in government has been declining for more than three decades now. E-government has been proposed as a way to increase citizen trust in government and improve citizen evaluations of government generally. Using two-stage models to analyze recent Pew survey data, this research explores the relationship between e-government use, attitudes about e-government, and trust in government. There is a statistically significant relationship between trust and use of a local government Web site, as well as other positive assessments of federal and local governments. The evidence suggests that e-government can increase process-based trust by improving interactions with citizens and perceptions of responsiveness. The findings are theoretically important for reconciling the conflicting research on the effects of e-government and for understanding variations by level of government. Citizen attitudes toward government, including trust, are core concerns for democratic governance and public administration.