Publicness and Citizen' Attribution of Blame and Success to Politicians in Public Service Delivery: A Comparative Replication Study

Project: Research

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The project will examine government service delivery and how citizens ascribe blame or success for its outcomes to politicians. This includes elements that have formed the cornerstone of public management research over recent decades: publicness, institutional design, citizen-state relationships and public organizations' performance. The project will seek to make a major contribution to the public management literature by implementing a novel replication framework developed by Walker et al. (2018a) as part of a previous GRF grant. More precisely, the project will replicate James et al's (2015) study on negativity bias, by testing and extending the theoretical and empirical scope of that study from the West (UK) to East Asia (Hong Kong, South Korea) thereby developing middle range theory. In the project, we ask: how do citizens attribute the success or failure of service delivery to politicians when institutional design choices are subject to either strong or weak publicness? We examine this question by replicating and extending James et al.’s (2015) UK study in which citizens were asked to assess blame (negativity bias) for poor service delivery based on information cues for alternative service delivery arrangements. The proposed project will make a strong theoretical contribution on this topic by substantially extending the original study through the following goals: (1) locating the original study in a publicness framework to fully capture economic as well as political theories of institutional design;(2) focusing on success (positivity bias) in addition to blame (negativity bias); and(3) examine the generalizability of the elements of the project by testing boundary conditions. The project explicitly focuses on testing these core public management concepts in East Asia. We do this because these concepts were developed in relation to public organizations operating in Western democracies, where boundary conditions are different. The research design will follow Walker et al.’s (2018a) seven decision points of experimental replication to allow a fine-grained step-by-step extension of the original study to understand how boundary conditions influence study findings. The replication will be conducted through three waves of survey experiment in each country, sampling 1,000 subjects in each wave in each country. By examining how comparative contexts influence citizens' assessment of public service delivery the project will contribute towards the development of middle range theory in public administration, inform the practice of public administration and deliver long-term impact.


Project number9043093
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/21 → …