Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

Major Professor

David J. Houston

Committee Members

Patricia K. Freeland, Anthony J. Nownes, Donald G. Hodges


Examining the relationship among government performance, service satisfaction and trust in government advocated by the New Public Management, this research contributes to a better understanding of the performance-trust hypothesis and its assumptions. This study evaluates the satisfaction link of the performance-trust hypothesis, investigating influences on service satisfaction and how these translate into trust. In particular, two implicit assumptions of the performance-trust hypothesis are explored. First, citizen experience with public services is examined as a measure of specific support for government. Second, the role of citizen interactions with the bureaucracy is assessed, specifically identifying the influence of citizen attitudes toward public administrators on general trust in government.

The performance-trust hypothesis poses that improved government performance leads to more satisfied citizens, thus resulting in higher levels of citizen trust in government. Although empirical research has supported the link between satisfaction with public services and trust in government, the implicit assumption that satisfaction is a function of specific support for government, impacted by citizen experiences with government services, requires further evaluation. Examining the relationship between using a particular government service and evaluations of the effectiveness of that service, these findings show that service users have significantly different evaluations of government services than non-service users. Personally experiencing the service delivery of a particular government program results in higher levels of service satisfaction compared to levels among those who have not personally used the program.

A second implicit assumption of the performance-trust hypothesis is that evaluations of public administrators based on citizen interactions during service delivery influence trust in government. Although the performance-trust hypothesis assumes that citizen evaluations of bureaucrats are based on specific support for government, only one component is emphasized, output-based trust—or perceptions of bureaucratic competence—while the second dimension, process-based trust—or perceptions of the caring of public administrators—is overlooked. These findings indicate that attitudes toward bureaucrats do influence trust in government broadly. However, it is not only competence that influences trusting attitudes, as expected by the performance-trust hypothesis, but also caring. In fact, process-based trust may have a greater impact on citizen trust in government than output-based trust.

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