by Mauricio Astudillo Rodas
Public organizations are expected to improve people’s lives by correctly delivering goods and services. These organizations must be transparent and accountable to different actors because constituents expect good use of their taxes. In this matter, the public sector is immersed in a set of rules and procedures that control every aspect of the policy process. Along the way, there are many instances, sometimes unnoticed, when people and public organizations interact. The consequence of these interactions contributes to determining the image people have about the government and, thus, their trust in the public sector.
In some cases, the numerous rules and procedures in public organizations may be generating burdens on the same people trying to access the goods and services they need, thereby causing a negative perception of these government institutions. In response to this problem, public organizations have begun to rely more on technology to design innovative strategies that simplify rules and paperwork while improving citizen-government interactions. The New Jersey State Policy Lab teamed up with the Eagleton Institute to ask New Jersey residents for their perspectives regarding this subject, and we are sharing a few results from the poll.
The survey specifically asked if the State of New Jersey (NJ) was doing a good job using technology to increase transparency, improve communications, and allow people and businesses to conduct government matters online. More than half (55%) of respondents believed that the state government is doing a good job. It is interesting to note that within this overall response, Black adults indicated more support for the question (58%) than Hispanic adults (53% support). Additionally, women were on average more supportive of the belief that the New Jersey government is doing a good job compared to men (54% support vs. 46%). There could be an opportunity for government officials to revise these groups’ interactions with the State government.
Reviewing respondents’ self-assessments of their internet skills also presented a valuable opportunity for more research. Just over half (55%) of respondents consider themselves “experts” or “very skilled” in internet abilities. Less than half of the respondents who identified as “experts” believe the State government is doing a good job (46% support). However, people that perceived themselves as “not skilled at all” or “not very skilled” using the internet believe that NJ is doing a good job with technology (54% and 62% support respectively). Hence, more prolific internet users may see more potential for government officials to improve internet use in public organizations. In contrast, less skilled internet users may believe the current technology available is sufficient. This indicates a need for balance—government officials can innovate more in utilizing new or improving upon existing technology for government matters but must keep in mind that some people ultimately may not feel comfortable using these technologies.
Lastly, it is essential to keep in mind that people’s perception of how well the State government is utilizing technology is linked to their perception of how well the state is doing as a whole. This survey shows a positive relationship between the use of technology and respondents’ trust in the NJ State government. Here, two-thirds (66%) of respondents that perceive that the government is doing a good job with technology indicated that they trust the State government. Public officials should keep exploring the different applications that technology can bring to improve citizen-government interactions, resulting in more trust. As we can see, while there is always room for improvement, public employees need to consider the needs of different types of groups because each interacts differently with the State government.
 This survey was conducted by phone and text-to-web in English and Spanish from June 14 to July 5, 2022 with a scientifically selected random sample of 1,976 New Jersey adults, 18 or older. Data were weighted to be representative of the residential adult population in New Jersey. The sampling margin of error is +/-2.8 percent. The full questionnaire can be accessed at eagletonpoll.rutgers.edu.