Performance Information, Racial Bias, and Citizen Evaluations of Government: Evidence from Two Studies

Source: Gregory A Porumbescu, Suzanne J Piotrowski, Vincent Mabillard, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Advance articles, Published: November 10, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Social accountability reforms emphasize expanding performance information disclosure and incorporating citizen feedback into performance evaluations of public organizations. However, social accountability scholarship has largely ignored possible discriminatory implications of performance information use despite calls for more social equity research. We look to bridge these two literatures, arguing that increasing exposure to performance information can actually activate racial bias in citizen feedback. Using two samples of White MTurk participants residing in the United States, we test this argument in a Negative Performance Information Study (n = 800) and a Positive Performance Information Study (n = 800). In the Negative Performance Information Study, we find increased exposure to negative performance information triggers more negative performance evaluations of public organizations led by Black public managers, but not White public managers, and strengthens preferences to fire Black public managers, but not White public managers. In the Positive Performance Information Study, we find increased exposure to positive performance information has no impact on performance evaluations of Black, nor White public managers but strengthens preferences to reappoint White, but not Black public managers. These findings suggest increasing exposure to performance information triggers racial bias in performance evaluations and preferences for holding public managers accountable.