Governance, Public Service Delivery and Trust in Government

Published date01 December 2020
Date01 December 2020
Subject MatterSpecial Section on Politics & Society Between ElectionsSpecial Section Articles
Special Section Article
Governance, Public Service Delivery
and Trust in Government
Jyoti Mishra1 and Vibha Attri1
Several studies in the past show that the work done by the incumbent government helps the ruling
party to get re-elected. However, most of these studies focus on re-election and do not look at the
impact assessment of governance on trust in government, which is a precursor of re-election. To
fill this gap, this article explores whether perceptions of good governance lead to trust in govern-
ment. The results support the view that governance at the state level leads to a higher trust with the
state government. Of all the variables used to measure governance as access, benefitting from welfare
schemes had the maximum impact on trust. Other governance measures like availing public services
and citizens’ interaction with the state too had a positive relationship with trust in the state govern-
ment. Furthermore, having the same government at the centre and the state, strengthened one’s trust
in the state government.
Governance as access, trust, service delivery, state–citizen interaction
One of the most important channels of interaction between the state and its citizens is through govern-
ance mechanisms. Governance further enhances trust in the government. On the one hand, the govern-
ment, in order to fulfill its responsibilities, makes citizen-centric policies, implements them and seeks to
provide public services to its people. On the other hand, the citizens avail the benefits of these schemes
and access public services. In times of need, they approach various institutions, both state and non-state,
for their work (Sekhri, 2011). However, citizens from different socio-economic backgrounds envisage
different roles for the state—some see it as a provider and others as a facilitator. For the marginalized
(both socially and economically), accessing the state for basic needs and services remains the only
choice, unlike other citizens who can avail these services without hardships, by other means. Past studies
in India have indicated that people generally assign a lot of importance to medical facilities, drinking
water, roads, electricity and education (Chhibber et al., 2004) and believe that the government should
Studies in Indian Politics
8(2) 186–202, 2020
© 2020 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/2321023020963518
1 Lokniti, CSDS, New Delhi, Delhi, India.
Corresponding author:
Jyoti Mishra, Lokniti, CSDS, New Delhi, Delhi 110054, India.
Mishra and Attri 187
bear exclusive responsibility for these public goods. In such a scenario, the responsiveness of the demo-
cratic state is critical for giving an empirical meaning to the ‘idea’ of democracy that the citizens uphold
and cherish (Shastri, 2019a) and embedding their trust in the state.
This article provides an overview of governance ‘as access’ (Figure 1) in relation to efficiency (how
effectively the state implements welfare schemes), responsiveness (access to public services) and
approachability (citizens approach various institutions for their work and settling disputes). In doing so,
the article looks into the proportion of beneficiaries of the schemes that are provided by the state govern-
ments. It also taps into the experiences of the citizens in availing these services and makes an assessment
of whether there is any state-level variations in implementing the schemes. It also looks at the kinds of
institutions people approach for dispute settlement and getting their work done. Finally, we try to see
whether positive perceptions of governance increase people’s trust in the state government.
This article follows the following structure: after the introductory section, the second segment outlines
the trends evidenced from various existing literature on the theme of governance (state performance) and
trust and lays out the major hypothesis. In the third section, the data and the variables used with their
descriptive statistics are discussed. The fourth section provides the basic findings and also focuses on the
multivariate analysis. In the fifth and final section, the major conclusions are outlined and the findings
flowing from the data analysis are discussed, offering possible explanations for the same.
Trends Emerging from Current Literature
Governance is a multifaceted concept, encompassing all aspects of the exercises of authority, through
formal and informal institutions, in the management and distribution of the resources of the state. The
quality of governance is thus determined by the impact of this exercise of power on the quality of life
enjoyed by its citizens (Huther & Shah, 1998, p. 40). Governance as a term was initially used during the
Cold War by the West to manage the unequal relationship between donors and recipients of aid to pro-
mote democracy and market reforms as an alternative to the Soviet model. During that time, the thrust
of governance was on economic freedom that included transparency, accountability, responsiveness,
efficiency and the like (Shastri, 2019c). However, in the 1990s, the scope of the term governance was
widened to include the idea of protection of human rights. This resulted in an increased interest in gov-
ernance as a strategy to redefine its role in society.
There is an abundance of literature available on governance and its impact on vote choice. If the gov-
ernment in power is able to satisfactorily deliver social and economic goods to its citizens, its legitimacy
remains unchallenged; if it fails to do so, its authority declines (Attri & Jain, 2019; Deshpande
et al., 2019; Mishra & Attri, 2019; Suri & Kailash, 2014; Tillin et al., 2015; Virmani, 2004; Yadav &
Palshikar, 2009). However, governance not only favours the incumbent but could also result in building
trust in favour of the government, which could be a precursor to the re-election of the incumbent. The
following section discusses the available literature on governance and trust and also focuses various
indicators used to measure governance.
Governance and Trust in Government
The interaction between citizens and the state is a crucial factor impacting trust in government. Under
tight fiscal constraints and growing expectations, governments are increasingly reaching out to citizens
to ensure quality, responsiveness and, ultimately, trust in public services.

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