Personality traits in citizen expectations towards public services

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Morten Hjortskov


Personality traits, Expectations, Citizens, Public services, Satisfaction


Prior expectations are an important determining factor of how citizens evaluate politicians, government and public services. Typically, citizen expectations are divided into two main categories: predictive (“will”) expectations and normative (“should”) expectations. Theories of expectations say that predictive expectations are the sterile and indifferent prediction of future events, while normative expectations have a foundation in personal norms and values and express how the world should look according to the individual. Therefore, normative expectations should have antecedents more closely related to the individual’s personality than predictive expectations. However, these theoretical claims regarding the nature of the two different expectation types have not yet been tested empirically. Examining broad personality traits (Big Five) and The Maximizing Tendency trait, this exploratory study analyzes whether different personality antecedents explain the two types of expectations. Results show that the personality traits agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness correlate positively, and extraversion negatively, with normative expectations. None of the traits correlate with predictive expectations. These results have implications for politicians’ efforts to shape citizens’ expectations, the citizen satisfaction literature, including work considering the expectation-disconfirmation model, and for further research on citizen expectations.

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