Panel Paper: Measuring Bureaucratic Reputation: Scale Development and Validation

Thursday, November 2, 2017
San Francisco (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Danbee Lee and Gregg Van Ryzin, Rutgers University

It is important for public agencies to manage their reputations in order to enhance their power, autonomy, and legitimacy. Bureaucratic reputation refers to a set of beliefs about an agency’s unique capacities, roles, and obligations that are held by multiple audiences (Carpenter, 2010). Previous studies have found that public agencies strategically behave to enhance their reputations and at the same time protect themselves from reputational threats (Carpenter, 2010; Moynihan, 2012). Researchers agree that bureaucratic reputation is an important resource for public agencies to solve difficult problems in an increasingly complex environment with many stakeholders. Despite the growing interest in the concept, there has been little effort to measure bureaucratic reputation in a systematic way with standardized measurement.

Previous researchers have used a theoretical lens to examine the significance of bureaucratic reputation, in particular historical or case studies. As such, the research on bureaucratic reputation has relied on mostly qualitative approaches using archival data and interviews, as well as content analysis of media coverage (Carpenter, 2001; Maor, 2015). These methodological approaches are important and insightful, especially for measuring reputation at macro levels. However, research on bureaucratic reputation could also benefit from a standardized measurement at micro levels focusing on individual citizens and stakeholders.

Thus, this study reports on the development of a multi-item scale to measure bureaucratic reputation in the eyes of citizens as well as stakeholders. Following Carpenter (2010), it conceptualizes bureaucratic reputation as consisting of four dimensions: 1) performance, 2) morality, 3) procedure, and 4) technical competency. While these four dimensions emphasize the cognitive evaluation of the competencies of public agencies, this study adds a fifth dimension representing 5) emotional evaluations, which are reflected by likability and other affective attitudes (Sarstedtand Scholoderer, 2010). A thirty-item pool of statements is developed to measure the five dimensions of bureaucratic reputation, and these items have been revised and refined by twenty academic experts who have worked on bureaucratic reputation.

The validity and reliability of the scale is refined and tested using an online sample of approximately 500 citizens across the United States. Factor analysis and item analysis are used to refine the scale down to a limited number for each dimension. Following the theoretical and historical work on the consequences of bureaucratic reputation, criterion validity is assessed by examining correlations with: citizens’ overall opinions of the agency, ratings on the job being done by the agency, willingness to accept the agency’s autonomy, and support for budget increases for the agency. Finally, implications for using the scale to advance the systematic investigation of bureaucratic reputation are discussed.