Benchmarks and Citizen Judgments of Local Government Performance: Findings from a survey experiment

Étienne Charbonneau, Gregg G. Van Ryzin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Government agencies can provide various benchmarks when reporting their performance to citizens, but not much is known about how citizens understand and respond to benchmarking information. Thus, this study aims to test what performance benchmarks appear most salient and persuasive to citizens. We conducted an online survey experiment in which n = 595 respondents were randomized to different benchmarking information concerning fourth-grade reading proficiency of an elementary school. Our findings suggest that better school performance relative to the overall state average influenced respondents’ ratings more than did performance relative to last year or similar schools. Improvement over last year, moreover, appears to be the least influential benchmark. The implication is that citizens find broad, comparative benchmarks to be the most persuasive and view reflexive benchmarks as less impressive, although confirmation of this conclusion is needed because of limitations in the design of the experiment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)288-304
Number of pages17
JournalPublic Management Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 7 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management Information Systems
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


  • Performance reporting
  • benchmarks
  • citizen satisfaction
  • referents
  • transparency


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