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Strengthening Trust in Local Government

2 min read
February 2, 2022
— By Jessie O' Brien —
The Local Government Trust Index provides a standard means to measure public confidence.

Investigating trust in local government is more important than ever before. Public confidence in leadership has steadily declined since the 1960s. Most recently, heightened political polarization and law enforcement controversies deepened skepticism.

“You are tripping over people talking about trust—and the lack of trust—in government,” said Cory Poris Plasch, Polco Vice President of Strategic Development. Government officials are desperate for a way to examine the public’s faith in them. But how do you quantify a sentiment as shifting and complex as trust? 

The Local Government Trust Index (LGTI) survey solves this problem. Created as part of a public, private, and academic partnership, The LGTI applies to a broad range of communities. Yet the survey delivers meaningful results unique to each place. 

Anyone who signs up on the Polco platform receives free access to the survey.

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Launching The Local Government Trust Index

The Local Government Trust Index was part of the National League of Cities (NLC) Capstone Challenge Series, a pilot program that connects NLC partners to municipalities around the U.S.

Polco partnered with Arizona State University, Envisio, and three NLC member jurisdictions to measure public trust. The three jurisdictions included New Orleans, Louisiana; Broadview, Illinois; and Dublin, Ohio.

“When we came into this [project], we were trying to preface that New Orleans has a long history of lack of trust,” said Abby Webber, the Innovation Analyst for the City. New Orleans dealt with serious environmental issues, blackouts, trash pickup problems, potholes, and other headaches. They were not expecting glowing reviews, but the data will reveal where to focus improvements and inform planning efforts in the future.

All three places vary in population sizes, demographics, and region, yet each of them share the same trust problem. Their aggregate results started a well-rounded database. The survey also gave City leaders insight to improve confidence within their own communities.

In designing the survey for these NLC Cities, ASU researchers conducted an in-depth literature review on public trust. Polco used benchmark questions from The National Community Survey (The NCS). The NCS database provided a large source of data right from the start.

“The Trust Index fills a major void in government right now. We know that municipalities can be most effective when their residents believe in them,” Plasch said. “This survey is the first step in understanding where the gaps in trust are so we can work to fix them.”

Sign up for a free Polco profile to get access to the Local Government Trust Index. 

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