By Grace Maruska
E-government offers new, innovative ways to help connect individuals with public services. Navigating our post-pandemic world, however, requires deeper understanding of how various factors might impact public opinion on the government’s use of technology to increase transparency, improve communication, and conduct government business online. By examining survey data collected by the Center for Public Interest Polling at the Eagleton Institute of Politics, we found that, though perceptions of economic hardship increased, self-reported internet skills and perceptions of e-government remained steady in New Jersey between 2022 and 2023. This potential relationship—or the lack thereof—has implications for the provision of e-government services.
Perceived greater economic hardship over time stands out as an important finding from the survey. In 2022, 41% of survey respondents said that it was very difficult for people who are poor to work hard and get out of poverty. That grew to 63% by 2023—a whopping 22-percentage-point increase. This is not entirely surprising, given the effects of inflation and other macroeconomic factors. And yet survey respondents indicated they had roughly the same level of internet skills and perceptions of e-government between 2022 and 2023.
Many survey respondents had positive perceptions of e-government. More than half of survey respondents each year said that New Jersey did a somewhat good job or very good job using technology to increase transparency, improve communication, and conduct government business online, increasing from 52% to 56% by 2023. At the same time, 43% of survey respondents felt that the government only did a slightly good job or not a good job at all in 2022. That percentage did decline, however, to 35% in the following year. An overwhelming majority of survey respondents also reported being skilled with the internet. Indeed, 88.5% of survey respondents fell somewhere between fairly skilled and an expert each year.
Perceptions of e-government among survey respondents who were more skilled with the internet differed from those with fewer skills each year. Among respondents who reported expert internet skills in 2022, one-third (33%) felt that the government did a somewhat good job, 28% a slightly good job, and 25% not a good job at all. Survey respondents who reported they were very skilled or fairly skilled with the internet in 2022 were much more likely to say that the government did a somewhat good job by comparison. Indeed, 41% of survey respondents who self-reported very skilled or fairly skilled in 2022 felt this way. These differences were much less pronounced in 2023, as most survey respondents indicated that the government did a somewhat good job regardless of internet skills.
Though survey respondents felt that there was greater general economic hardship, the respondents also reported that they were consistently skilled with the internet and maintained positive perceptions of e-government between 2022 and 2023. Future research should continue to consider how these factors interact to help New Jersey better understand e-government in our post-pandemic world.
 Koning, A. & Roman, J. (2022, 2023). A survey of New Jersey residents. New Jersey: Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.