A Bayesian Approach for Behavioral Public Administration: Citizen Assessments of Local Government Sustainability Performance

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Aaron Deslatte


Performance information, Bayesian inference, Local government, Sustainability, Motivated reasoning, Affective intelligence


Citizens are increasingly critical information-processors, and government performance information has become ubiquitous to the tenants of democratic anchorage and support for public programs. Yet human perceptions of governmental policies and outcomes are increasingly partisan and resistant to updating. Partisan motivated reasoning can lead to inaccurate or biased assessments of both the merit of specific policies and governmental performance. This article presents a case for the use of Bayesian inference for experimental work on information-processing. Combining previous findings with a new experimental design, this study examines whether provision of performance information on local government implementation of federally initiated sustainability efforts ameliorates the partisan motivated reasoning of citizens. Contrary to expectations, the study finds evidence of attitude-strengthening in the face of disconfirming performance as well as suggesting partisan cues may help citizens calibrate their evaluations.