Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 7 > Issue 4

Citizen Perceptions of Government Service Quality: Evidence from Public Schools

Matthew M. Chingos, Brookings Institution, USA, mchingos@brookings.edu , Michael Henderson, Department of Political Science, University of Mississippi, University, USA, mbhende1@olemiss.edu , Martin R. West, 3Department of Government, Harvard University, USA, martin west@gse.harvard.edu
Suggested Citation
Matthew M. Chingos, Michael Henderson and Martin R. West (2012), "Citizen Perceptions of Government Service Quality: Evidence from Public Schools", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 7: No. 4, pp 411-445. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00011071

Publication Date: 17 Oct 2012
© 2012 M. M. Chingos, M. Henderson and M. R. West
Public opinion,  Democracy


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In this article:
Are Citizens Informed About Government Performance? 
Information Costs and Perceptions of School Quality 
Data on Perceived and Actual Quality of Public Schools 
Empirical Strategy 
Citizen Ratings and School Characteristics: National Evidence 
Performance Levels vs. Growth? Evidence from Florida 
The Effect of Accountability Ratings: Regression Discontinuity Evidence 


Conventional models of democratic accountability hinge on citizens' ability to evaluate government performance accurately. In recent years, public reporting of governmental performance has expanded in many policy domains, potentially enhancing citizen capacities to make accurate evaluations. Yet there is little evidence on the degree to which citizen perceptions correspond to actual service quality. Using survey data, we find that citizens' perceptions of the quality of specific public schools reflect available information about the level of student achievement in those schools. The relationship between perceived and actual school quality is two to three times stronger for parents of school-age children, who have the most contact with schools and arguably the strongest incentive to be informed. A regression discontinuity analysis of an oversample of Florida residents confirms that public accountability systems can have a causal effect on citizen perceptions of service quality, particularly for those with fewer alternative sources of relevant information.