Building trust in government: A data-driven imperative
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Building trust in government: A data-driven imperative

January 24, 2024

At a time when our democracy faces serious threats, partisanship is on the rise and public faith in federal institutions is low, the Partnership for Public Service and the Data Foundation share a mutual dedication to the important task of building trust in government.  

As part of its work to build the capacity of agencies to deliver for diverse audiences, the Partnership conducts research that offers insights into how the public perceives government and what can be done to improve those perceptions.  

Among other findings, several alarming trends emerged in our work: Only 34% of respondents believe the federal government is accountable, while a significant 62% do not; and merely 21% agree that the federal government is transparent, with a strong majority, 70% disagreeing. 

While these numbers highlight challenges, they also present an opportunity for the government to reset its relationship with the public through improved federal data practices  

Implementing robust data collection, management and dissemination practices can serve as a step toward greater accountability and transparency. When the public can more easily access and understand the data that drives policy choices, government accountability grows, which fosters trust. 

Partnership President and CEO Max Stier speaking about our work on rebuilding trust in government at govDATAx 2023. 

The Data Foundation, notably through its govDATAx summit, works toward this goal.  

Launched after the enactment of the 2019 Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, a federal law that aims to promote the use of evidence and data in the development of government policies and programs, govDATAx is a gathering where cross-sector data community representatives discuss how to use data and evidence to strengthen public policy and increase trust in government.  

The 2023 govDATAx summit offered three main takeaways for federal leaders seeking to meet this imperative: 

  • Artificial intelligence offers unparallelled opportunities to improve how our government analyzes data and uses those findings to better serve the public. However, systematically addressing significant risks related to AI is paramount to ensuring its responsible use by the government and other entities. (The Partnership offers its AI Federal Leadership Program to support this objective.) 
  • Clearly communicating the uses of data and evidence through appropriate channels is crucial. Translating analytics into accessible language and stories can help provide a sense of security and trust to the American public. 
  • Collaboration is key to successful data and evidence-based projects. Effective collaboration across communities and partners is instrumental to the success of various federal initiatives. 

There are a lot of parallels between the Partnership and the Data Foundation’s trust in government work. Continuing to learn more about the public perception of our government—and how a more effective use of data and evidence can improve that perception—presents a powerful opportunity to cultivate trust and build more efficient and responsive federal institutions.  

Visit the Partnership’s Rebuilding Trust in Government resources to learn more about our work in this area. 

Nick Hart is the president and CEO of the Data Foundation and a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. He is a recognized advocate and leader for establishing systems and practices that enable evidence-informed policymaking and open data practices to succeed around the world to improve society. He is an expert in United States policies related to data, evaluation, statistics, science and privacy.

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