ACSI Report: Satisfaction with Federal Government at Lowest Point Since 2015

Citizen satisfaction with the federal government fell 4.4 percent to a score of 65.1 out of 100, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s Federal Government Report 2020, published by ACSI in Ann Arbor.
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Citizen satisfaction with the federal government is at its lowest point since 2015, according to the ACSI. // Stock photo

Citizen satisfaction with the federal government fell 4.4 percent to a score of 65.1 out of 100, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s Federal Government Report 2020, published by ACSI in Ann Arbor.

“For the third straight year, satisfaction with the federal government takes a turn for the worse,” says Forrest Morgeson, assistant professor of marketing at Michigan State University and director of research at the ACSI. “Marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, a contentious run-up to the November federal elections, and uncertainty following those elections, citizen satisfaction now resides at its lowest level since 2015, making the government’s uphill climb that much steeper.”

Of the four primary drivers of citizen satisfaction – process, information, customer service, and website – customer service stayed steady at 74, with professionalism and courtesy of customer service agents being among the highest drivers for the score. The rest saw decreases: 3 percent to 66 for efficiency and ease of government processes, 3 percent to 69 for ease of accessing and clarity of information, and 5 percent to 71 for perceptions of government website quality.

Satisfaction differed across departments, with larger variance among federal departments than among companies in most private sector industries. This year, the departments of commerce and agriculture had the highest scores – both at 74.

The remainder came in below the economywide national ACSI average (74.4 as of the third quarter of 2020), with the Department of Treasury last with 60 points. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer district federal departments were captured in the 2020 sample.

The ACSI federal government study does not measure public approval of specific politicians or political parties, but political party affiliation is likely to have some influence on citizen satisfaction with government services, according to ACSI data.

Looking at trends in satisfaction by party affiliation between 2019 and 2020, Democrats (down 4 percent to 68), Republicans (down 7 percent to 65), and Independents (down 5 percent to 62) all display declining satisfaction. Each group recorded its lowest score since 2018, and only the much smaller group of “other party” supporters reported higher satisfaction in 2020 than in the prior two years – up 7 percent to 62.

The report is based on interviews with 1,291 users chosen at random and contacted via email throughout the year. The full report is available here.

The ACSI has been operating for 25 years and measures and analyzes customer satisfaction with more than 400 companies in 47 industries and 10 economic sectors, including various services of federal and local government agencies. Reported on a scale of 0-100, scores are based on data from interviews with about 500,000 customers annually.

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