Some lawmakers in Washington have fueled some pretty negative characterizations of the federal workforce. But how many Americans really share their views?
Congressional leaders are sharpening their budget axes, and gearing up to take another look at federal pay and benefits.
Advocates of a smaller, leaner federal workforce will try once more to make the case that the government cannot afford you, and that the only way to fix this is to downsize the workforce, freeze or reduce pay, and trim benefits.
A few of them will imply—or state outright—that the government needs to do these things also because federal workers are inefficient, overcompensated and too many in number for the work they perform.
A lot of this sentiment has been drifting down to the public over the past year or so, inciting Joe Sixpack to start railing against federal workers.
But luckily, John Q. Public generally knows better—as evidenced by American Customer Satisfaction Index results released this week. According to those results, Americans were more satisfied with services provided by the federal government in 2011 than they were a year earlier.
ACSI, a self-professed “national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States,” says its research results show that citizen satisfaction with federal government services is up 2.3 percent to 66.9 (on a scale of 100) for 2011, after several years of decline.
Ratings vary within the government, of course. According to ASCI, the Defense Department scored a 76 and the Interior Department a 74, versus the Departments of Homeland Security and Treasury at 59 and 57, respectively. ACSI results also indicate that departments and agencies that deliver benefits have higher scores in general than agencies with regulatory missions.
We could list other findings here, but ACSI has posted the materials online, so you can click through to their site if you want to take a closer look.
But for our purposes here, it’s probably better to cut to the chase, as would Prof. Warwick (“please don’t call me ‘Dr.’”) Blood, who currently teaches communication research methods, public opinion research and other subjects at the University of Canberra, and who was often heard to remark in class:
“Any mug can come up with a number! What does it mean?”
In terms of these particular research findings, ACSI founder Claes Fornell answers that question quite well:
“While people generally distrust federal government as a whole, they are much more positive towards the job that individual agencies are performing. Paradoxically perhaps, these findings suggest that the more people come into contact with government service, the more they actually like it. The lack of trust has much more to do with politicians than it does with federal workers and the services of the federal government.”
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