Website Woes Make Citizens Less Happy With Government

The bumpy rollout of Healthcare.gov made headlines in 2013, but ACSI research indicates that widespread downturns across many federal government websites contribute to lower citizen satisfaction with government overall. According to January’s ACSI Federal Government Report 2013, citizen satisfaction with federal government services is down 3.4% to 66.1 (on a scale of 0 to 100) as compared with 2012. This decline erases two years of consecutive gains for the federal government and leads to further erosion in general trust—down 19% from 43 to 35 in 2013.
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While general trust in government has been weak over several years, citizens who directly experience federal services show much higher trust in government. In 2013, the ACSI benchmark for agency trust is 67, although this measure also declines—down 6% compared with a year ago.

Since the E-Government Act of 2002, more and more citizens come into contact with government services online. Among all users of federal services in 2013, 35% favored websites as their communication channel, a proportion that exceeds the next two channels combined (office visits at 11% and telephone at 19%).

While e-government represents a less costly and more efficient means for delivering public services, it is getting harder for the federal government to keep up with growing demand while maintaining satisfactory service. For example, the negative impact of the troublesome launch of Healthcare.gov reverberates at the department level, as Health and Human Services overall drops 4% to an ACSI benchmark of 66.

Declining satisfaction is not limited to a single government website. In aggregate, citizen satisfaction with federal websites is down 3% from an ACSI benchmark of 74 in 2012 to 72. Overall, users find government sites to be more difficult to navigate, less reliable, and the information less useful than a year ago. As the reach of e-government grows, any further slips in this channel will continue to have a strong impact on both citizen satisfaction and citizen trust with the federal government.

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