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Citizen Attributions of Blame in Third-Party Governance

Published Date November 09, 2015
Research Type
Authors Amanda Girth


The authors use a survey experiment to examine how structural differences in governance arrangements affect citizens’ notions of who is culpable for poor service quality. More specifically, two questions are investigated: (1) When things go wrong, do citizens attribute more blame to political actors if the provider of government services is a public agency or a private contractor? (2) Does the length of the accountability chain linking political actors to service providers influence citizens’ attributions of blame? The authors hypothesize that provider sector and accountability chain length affect citizens’ perceptions of political actors’ control over service delivery, which, in turn, inform citizens’ attributions of blame. Mixed support is found for this theory.

John D. Marvel and Amanda M. Girth. 2016. Citizen Attributions of Blame in Third-Party Governance. Public Administration Review 76(1): 96-108.