Perception of e-gov shifting
- By William Matthews
- Feb 26, 2002
The Hart-Teeter e-government poll
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 have altered the public's perception of
electronic government. Americans now see e-government as a key tool for
catching and prosecuting terrorists and for coordinating government responses
to bioterrorism attacks, according to a newly released poll.
Surveys conducted by the Hart-Teeter polling organization found that
70 percent of the public believes e-government can help fight terrorism
by enabling agencies such as the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention and local law enforcement to share information. Seventy-seven
percent think that similar information sharing can help agencies coordinate
a response to a public health threat or bioterrorism attack.
Furthermore, 90 percent favor e-government systems that would help federal,
state and local law enforcement agencies exchange information to catch and
prosecute criminals and terrorists.
In a similar survey a year before the terrorist attacks, the public
looked to e-government chiefly as a way to learn more about what government
was doing — and thus hold government accountable — and to receive services.
Both polls were conducted by Hart-Teeter for the Council for Excellence
in Government, a private good-government advocate. The current survey was
released Feb. 26 and is based on two surveys of about 1,500 people conducted
in November 2001.
Public understanding of e-government as a way to improve government
operations such as information sharing shows that "Americans view e-government
as going beyond Web sites," said Albert Edmonds, president of EDS' U.S.
Government Solutions, which paid for the poll.
Overall, 42 percent of those polled say they "feel positive toward e-government."
That compares to the 35 percent who felt positive about e-government when
polled in August 2000.
But the positive feelings haven't allayed the public's most basic e-government
fear. Sixty-four percent of those polled say they remain "extremely concerned
about hackers breaking into government computers." The big worry is that
hackers will gain access to personal information and use it to steal identities.
Similarly, only 35 percent of Internet users said they think it is safe
to pay a ticket or a fine with a credit card on a government Web site. Commercial
Internet sites got a higher safety rating: 45 percent said they thought
it was safe to buy things over the Internet from commercial sites. By comparison,
in August 2000, 36 percent thought it was safe to buy from commercial sites.
The most surprising finding in the 2000 poll was that 54 percent of
the public expected the Internet to make it easier to hold government accountable
for what it does or fails to do. The November surveys showed the public's
belief that e-government can improve accountability had increased to 62
One e-government feature that is losing support is online voting. Sixty-three
percent of the public opposes online voting, and among those who favor it,
support has dropped from 38 percent in August 2000 to 33 percent today,
the poll found.