Performance Information, Racial Bias, and Citizen Evaluations of Government: Evidence from Two Studies

Gregory A. Porumbescu, Suzanne J. Piotrowski, Vincent Mabillard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Social accountability reforms emphasize expanding performance information disclosure and incorporating citizen feedback into performance evaluations of public organizations. However, social accountability scholarship has largely ignored possible discriminatory implications of performance information use despite calls for more social equity research. We look to bridge these two literatures, arguing that increasing exposure to performance information can actually activate racial bias in citizen feedback. Using two samples of White MTurk participants residing in the United States, we test this argument in a Negative Performance Information Study (n = 800) and a Positive Performance Information Study (n = 800). In the Negative Performance Information Study, we find increased exposure to negative performance information triggers more negative performance evaluations of public organizations led by Black public managers, but not White public managers, and strengthens preferences to fire Black public managers, but not White public managers. In the Positive Performance Information Study, we find increased exposure to positive performance information has no impact on performance evaluations of Black, nor White public managers but strengthens preferences to reappoint White, but not Black public managers. These findings suggest increasing exposure to performance information triggers racial bias in performance evaluations and preferences for holding public managers accountable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-541
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Volume31
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jul 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Pratt Program for Freedom of Information at Rutgers Law School; Gregory Porumbescu acknowledges funding from a National Research Foundation of Korea Grant from the Korean Government (NRF-2017S1A3a2065838).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing

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