Bureaucratic reputation in the eyes of citizens: an analysis of US federal agencies

Danbee Lee, Gregg G. Van Ryzin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Bureaucratic reputation has been defined as a set of beliefs about a public organization’s capacities, roles, and obligations that are embedded in a network of multiple audiences (Carpenter, 2010). Although one of the most important audiences in a democracy is the citizenry, very little empirical investigation has looked at citizens’ beliefs about specific government agencies and what individual or contextual factors influence these beliefs. To examine this question, this study analyzes data from a unique 2013 Pew Political Survey that represents the responses of 1500 US citizens on the reputations of 12 federal agencies. Results demonstrate that citizens view the reputations of some agencies (such as the CDC and NASA) much more favorably than other agencies (such as the IRS and the Department of Education). In regression analyses, findings suggest that the reputation of federal agencies varies according to citizens’ general level of trust in government and their political ideology, but that demographic, socioeconomic and regional differences also shape reputation judgments. These findings provide some preliminary empirical understanding of the reputation of government agencies in the eyes of the citizenry and may have implications for agencies seeking to manage their relationship with the public. Points for practitioners: Bureaucratic reputation has important implications for public administrators because of its influence on a government agency’s autonomy, power, and legitimacy. Our study examines the reputations of 12 US federal government agencies and identifies individual and contextual determinants of citizens’ reputation ratings. We demonstrate that reputations differ between agencies and that certain factors – especially political ideology and trust in government – shape how the public views an agency’s reputation. These findings can help practitioners understand better how to strategically manage their agency’s reputation given an increasingly critical citizenry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-200
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Review of Administrative Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


  • federal government
  • public agency
  • public opinion
  • reputation


Dive into the research topics of 'Bureaucratic reputation in the eyes of citizens: an analysis of US federal agencies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this