Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Service Users and Manager Perceptions of Performance Information Use: Performance Dimensions and Data Credibility

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 11:15 AM
Tuttle Center (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

M. Jin Lee1, Richard M. Walker1 and Oliver James2, (1)City University of Hong Kong, (2)University of Exeter
Local governments are responsible for the delivery of the majority of public services consumed by citizens and performance information (PI) on these services has become widely available. Debate over the role of PI is longstanding. Economic theory argues that performance information is key to public service users in the absence of market mechanisms. From a political theory point of view, PI brings the government closer to the public by increasing transparency and accountability by permitting scrutiny of and engagement with public service providers. Alongside debates about the role of PI is the complex nature of public service performance. Public service performance is typified by a diversity of performance dimensions (efficiency, effectiveness, equity, quality, speed etc.), a large number of stakeholders (citizens, users, managers, politicians, business, contractors etc.) and a range of ways in which PI can be measured (perceptual and archival or secondary data) and presented raising questions about the credibility of these data.

Existing research findings suggest that stakeholders’ PI preferences are often unclear and that PI is not always successfully communicated. This study undertakes three interlinked experimental interventions to expand the knowledge base of two key stakeholder groups – service users and managers. The first study examines longstanding but highly pertinent trade-offs between the performance dimensions of efficiency and equity. Study two undertakes a replication of James and Moseley (2014) on the presentation and communication of absolute and relative PI data. The last study examines the credibility of perceptual and archival data sources. Prior to the delivery of the vignettes a pre-test is administered to collect data on socio-economic characteristics and the dependent variables of satisfaction rating and attribution of responsibility. Time periods of 2-3 weeks will be left between each study.

A between groups vignette research design is implemented, with control and intervention groups for each study. Data from 800 subjects will be collected in May 2015. The study focuses on secondary education and solid waste (recycling). For the school setting subjects are drawn from schools in the research pool of Hong Kong Institute for Education. Recycling users are drawn from the Public Management Evidence Lab subject pool and managers from the alumni of a Master’s programme in environmental policy and management. Research findings are anticipated to contribute towards knowledge on PIU and the better practice of public management.