Americans Say Government Stinks — Especially This Agency

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Although citizens remain unhappy with federal government services, they do report a few areas where things may be improving.

The latest customer satisfaction scores offer more bad news for the U.S. federal government — but there are hints of potential good news on the horizon.

The bad news: Citizens’ satisfaction with the feds’ services has declined for the third consecutive year, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index Federal Government Report 2015.

Overall, satisfaction with federal government services fell by 0.8 percent last year to a score of 63.9 out of 100 — the lowest it’s been in at least eight years.

On a more optimistic note: Citizens’ satisfaction declined at a substantially lower rate in 2015, according to the ACSI report, so good news could lie ahead for government bureaucrats:

Small gains in citizen perceptions about their experiences with government — such as customer service and information quality — may suggest a rebound in citizen satisfaction in the year ahead. …

Should the small gains earned in 2015 take hold and continue upward over the year ahead, 2016 could see the first improvement in federal user satisfaction since 2012.

Three benchmarks on which the feds improved in 2015 are:

  • Timeliness and efficiency of the process: 69 (up one point from the prior year)
  • Clarity and accessibility of information received from federal agencies: 71 (up two points)
  • Customer service (measured as courtesy and professionalism of staff): 76 (up one point)

The score on the fourth benchmark, for user perceptions of website quality (ease and usefulness), remained steady at 72.

According to a CBS News report, the findings have some implications for bureaucrats:

“Satisfaction is linked to broader goals in the political system that it wants to maximize, like confidence and trust,” said Forrest Morgeson, director of research at the ACSI. “It’s much more difficult to govern if the entire population dislikes you.”

Among individual federal departments, satisfaction scores varied. The U.S. Department of the Interior, which manages the nation’s natural and cultural resources, recorded a score of 75, the highest in the survey.

By contrast, the Department of the Treasury, which includes the Internal Revenue Service, had the lowest score of 55:

  1. Department of the Interior: 75
  2. Department of State: 71
  3. Department of Defense: 70
  4. Department of Homeland Security: 67
  5. Department of Commerce: 66
  6. Social Security Administration: 66
  7. Department of Agriculture: 63
  8. Department of Health and Human Services: 62
  9. Department of Transportation: 61
  10. Department of Education: 61
  11. Department of Veterans Affairs: 60
  12. Department of Justice: 59
  13. Department of the Treasury: 55

Morgeson explains the lowest ranking to CBS News:

“If you think about what the IRS does, which is take money from citizens, you’ll have low satisfaction.”

If you’re in arrears with the IRS, visit the Money Talks News Solutions Center, where you can get help with tax debt, among other financial issues.

If you’re gearing up for the current tax season, check out Money Talks News’ new course taught by Stacy Johnson: “Mastering Taxes: Slash Your Taxes and Have Fun Doing It!” Readers can save 28 percent via that link.

What satisfaction score would you give the federal government? Sound off in our Forums. It’s the place where you can speak your mind, explore topics in-depth, and post questions and get answers.

Stacy Johnson

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