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The Effect of Transparency on Trust in Government: A Cross-National Comparative Experiment

Authors


  • Stephan Grimmelikhuijsen is a postdoctoral researcher in the Utrecht School of Governance, Utrecht University. His research interests include citizen trust in government, electronic government, transparency, and experimentation in public administration research. E-mail: s.g.grimmelikhuijsen@uu.nl

  • Gregory Porumbescu holds a doctorate in public administration from the Graduate School of Public Administration at Seoul National University. Currently, he works in the department of Public Administration at Myongji University, Seoul. His research interests include citizen trust in government, transparency, and e-government. E-mail: gporumbescu@gmail.com

  • Boram Hong holds a bachelor's degree in law from the College of Law, Seoul National University, and a master of public policy degree from the Graduate School of Public Administration, Seoul National University. She has worked as an international team manager at the Asia Society. Currently, she is writing her doctoral dissertation. Research interests include policy instruments, decision making in terms of the “identity-norm” model, sociocybernetic systems, public law, and the political process of legislation. E-mail: gertrudehong@gmail.com

  • Tobin Im is professor in the Graduate School of Public Administration at Seoul National University and visiting professor in the Department of Public Administration at George Mason University. His research interests include organizational theory, government competitiveness, and information and communication technology in the public sector. E-mail: tobin@snu.ac.kr

Abstract

Transparency is considered a key value for trustworthy governments. However, the effect of transparency on citizens’ trust across national cultures is overlooked in current research. This article compares the effect of transparency on trust in government in the Netherlands and South Korea. The effect is investigated in two similar series of three experiments. The authors hypothesize that the effect of transparency differs because the countries have different cultural values regarding power distance and short- and long-term orientation. Results reveal similar patterns in both countries: transparency has a subdued and sometimes negative effect on trust in government. However, the negative effect in South Korea is much stronger. The difference in the magnitude of transparency's effect suggests that national cultural values play a significant role in how people perceive and appreciate government transparency.

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