Journal Article

Performance Information, Blame Avoidance, and Politicians’ Attitudes to Spending and Reform: Evidence from an Experiment

Poul A. Nielsen and Martin Baekgaard

in Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory

Published on behalf of The Public Management Research Association

Volume 25, issue 2, pages 545-569
Published in print April 2015 | ISSN: 1053-1858
Published online October 2013 | e-ISSN: 1477-9803 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jopart/mut051
Performance Information, Blame Avoidance, and Politicians’ Attitudes to Spending and Reform: Evidence from an Experiment

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Performance information has been argued to assist politicians in decision making on budgeting and reform, but research on how political decision makers respond to performance information is sparse. Building on blame-avoidance theory, we develop novel hypotheses concerning the impact of performance information on politicians’ attitudes to spending and reform. To isolate the causal effect of performance information, we conducted a randomized survey experiment among 844 Danish city councilors. Information treatments showing high and low performance had a positive effect on attitudes to spending, whereas information on average performance had a negative effect on spending attitudes. Moreover, information showing high performance rendered politicians less willing to pursue reform. We discuss the implications of these findings for the role of performance information in public administration.

Journal Article.  11557 words. 

Subjects: Public Administration

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