Compared to whom? Social and historical reference points and performance appraisals by managers, students, and the general public

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Amanda Rutherford
Thomas Rabovsky
Megan Darnley


Sample comparisons, Survey experiment, Information framing, Perceived performance


Experimental studies in public administration often focus on samples of non-practitioner groups. In these cases, it is unclear whether findings from non-practitioner groups are generalizable to public managers. Some literature suggests that bureaucrats are likely to hold biases similar to the rest of the population while other research argues that bureaucratic expertise and training allow practitioners to make decisions in more strategic or rational ways. This study works within the literature of performance information to test for differences in responses to the same experiment among college students, citizens, and public managers in the context of U.S. K-12 education. Some differences were detected across groups, though results reveal largely similar findings which have implications for when and how scholars might rely on non-practitioner samples to consider the attitudes and behaviors of bureaucrats or elected policymakers.

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