State and local governments are on the front lines of delivering services and restoring trust in government. Data from a new survey report by Deloitte provides insight into driving perceptions of trust in state and local government functions.

The survey identified three emerging trends into why citizens trust or tend not to trust various government entities.

First, trust in government varies dramatically at different levels of government, the more local, the more trust. This, according to the report, isn’t shocking because the Federal government has few direct interactions and is less politically accessible.

“It is easier to go to your local town hall and access a town official or department head directly than it is to travel to Washington, DC in hopes of meeting someone in a position of authority. Decisions made by local government on various issues ranging from education and housing to public safety tend to impact people directly,” the report stated.

Second, the survey also found that a citizen’s digital experience with a government agency was a strong predictor of their overall level of trust. Individuals who are pleased with a state governments’ digital services also tend to rate the state highly in measures of overall trust.

In general, respondents rate state and local agencies high on trust if they think state governments’ digital services are easy to use. Governments’ web-based services help them accomplish what they need and that the state government safeguards their data well.

And finally, the mission of various government agencies can greatly influence citizens’ perception of trust. The top three trusted agencies in the survey with the highest trust are all retailer-like agencies that aid low-income families.

“Survey respondents considered these three agencies more capable, providing more reliable services, and at the same time, doing so with good intent compared to other agencies,” the report stated.

Additionally, the survey found that unemployment insurance (UI), motor vehicles, and law enforcement are among the least trusted state agencies. The lack of trust in local UI and DMV agencies is likely attributed to the struggles many faced accessing services and benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. And for law enforcement agencies, one factor for low trust could be recent media coverage of high-profile police misconduct cases and subsequent protests.

The survey also identified some key steps that state governments could take to restore trust:

1) Identify where trust is lacking.

2) Focus on your agency’s digital experience.

3) Choose trust-building actions based on the agency’s mission.

4) Proactively and transparently sharing performance data.

5) Make the journey to restoring public trust a priority.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk State and Local Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.