Rebuilding Trust in Government: From Ideas to Implementation in Policy Reform
Amy E. Lerman is professor of Public Policy and Political Science, co-director of The People Lab, and associate dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research is focused on issues of race, public opinion, and political behavior, especially as they relate to punishment and social inequality in America. In addition to her academic work, Lerman has served as a speechwriter and communications consultant for national nonprofits and members of the United States Congress, a community organizer in Latin America and Southeast Asia, and an adjunct faculty member of the Prison University Project at San Quentin State Prison. She consults widely on issues related to prison reform, access to higher education, and law enforcement mental health.
Abstract: Perhaps the biggest challenge facing American democracy is the extraordinary distrust most Americans have of government. Last year, just 20% of adults in the U.S. reported trusting government to do what’s right. We know that an array of cognitive biases make it difficult to change these kinds of political perceptions. What we know can successfully change some types of attitudes, though, is the direct, personal experience people have with public programs. While this won’t instantly reverse decades of declining trust in government, meaningful benefits distributed through public policy have the capacity to begin restoring the sense that government can improve people’s everyday lives. In this work, Professor Lerman details the crisis in public trust, describes its implications, and discusses the potential to begin rebuilding the public-sector’s reputation in the coming years.