Race and dissatisfaction with government services: A cautionary note

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It is customary to employ surveys to evaluate government services. Race is cited frequently as a source of differences between people in the evaluation of government services. African-Americans are reported to be more critical of government services than others. However, a possible source of error reported in survey research is response bias due to what is commonly called the race-of-interviewer effect: black and white respondents giving different answers as a function of who asks the question. This note investigates, through an experimental design, whether response bias exists in mail surveys. Using two institutions, one historically black and one historically white, residents in a Southern community were asked to evaluate government's response to growth. As expected, initial results affirmed the importance of race. However, additional analysis revealed a more complex role for race. More importantly, the results indicated that citizens may, in fact, take into consideration who asks the question.


County government; Local government; Mail surveys; Public administration; Race discrimination; Surveys


American Politics | Policy History, Theory, and Methods | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Race and Ethnicity | Regional Sociology

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