Despite large-scale efforts over the past decade by officials at every level to bring more government information and services online, Americans’ attitudes toward “e-Gov” services are still decidedly mixed, according to the results of a study released today by the Pew Research Center.
Americans’ responses to questions about the effectiveness and availability of online services tended to correlate strongly with broader views about trust in government. Of those who said they generally trust the federal government, 76% said that government data can be used to help keep officials accountable, and 73% said that government data can help journalists do their jobs more effectively. Those with less trust in the government were much less likely to view either question positively, at 47% and 52%, respectively.
Partisan affiliation played a part as well, with Democrats generally more bullish on the effect of government data on accountability than Republicans, by roughly 6% to 10% on most questions.
Americans’ views on one issue, however, were much more unified – there is broad agreement that the government making data like restaurant health ratings and individual criminal records publicly available is a good thing (82% and 60% positive views, respectively). That said, they were less enthused at the prospect of homeowners’ mortgage records being available online, with just 22% responding positively.
Senior researcher John Horrigan said that those Americans who were using government services online tended to use them for relatively simple tasks.
“As open data and open government initiatives get underway, most Americans are still largely engaged in ‘e-Gov 1.0’ online activities, with far fewer attuned to ‘Data-Gov 2.0’ initiatives that involve agencies sharing data online for public use,” he said in a statement.
The Open Government Initiative was one of President Barack Obama’s first actions upon entering the White House in January 2009, created with the aim of making the federal government more transparent, with the help of technology. In the years since, many state and local governments have followed suit, creating web portals through which citizens can access various data and services.