Gene comments on the recent report from the Pew Research for the People & the Press and its finding that there is a sharp decline from 2008 numbers in the public’s opinion of their state government.
NCSL took Pew’s findings and compared them to their own surveys and focuses on the possible cause being the widening budget gaps that have strapped state government agencies, programs and services. However, the Pew report did note a positive shift in the public’s perception of the federal government. I suggest that is the result of having a new administration promoting its campaign of “hope.”
What I focused on as the most interesting part of the Gene’s post was the very last sentence: “Local governments continue to have the best ratings of the three groups (federal state local), with 60 percent being favorable and 32 percent unfavorable, both numbers down slightly from last year.”
Why do you think local government would have the most favorable rating among these three levels of government? My idea is that it’s all about connectivity –the connection between government and its citizens, and the benefits that arise from that.
Benefits such as a citizens having a sense of community as a unit; being informed about government affairs (whether that information is provided by the government or from the news media, or from your offline social network); being able to obtain information if wanted, and knowing where to go or who to contact to get it; and, knowing that if you want to engage in public affairs, you know how to go about it and that the “cost of involvement” is low, e.g., time and money (phone call, email, drive to a public meeting).
I would also propose that this connectivity is not necessarily affected by population size. Whether you live in Peewee Valley, Kentucky or Dallas, Texas, one still has a communal sense with their local government (city, county, township, parish, metro and so on). Step up a level in government and that sense of connectivity decreases.
So what does this mean for the use of, or need for, collaborative technologies like Web 2.0 in governing? Since connectivity and building networks is at the root of these solutions, then it means something pretty important, especially now. As we face a number of local, state and national public policy challenges such as healthcare reform, the environment, wars and the economic collapse, we need to advocate strongly for better ways to bring together the public and the public sector to communicate and share information.
For governments to manage effectively and efficiently (through public input and feedback), for citizens to achieve a level of attachment to their government (through easier access to people and information), and for our democracy to succeed, there needs to be a stronger sense of connectivity of citizens to all levels of their government.