Understanding Trust in Government: Environmental Sustainability, Fracking, and Public Opinion in American Politics, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Understanding Trust in Government

Environmental Sustainability, Fracking, and Public Opinion in American Politics, 1st Edition

By Scott E. Robinson, James W. Stoutenborough, Arnold Vedlitz


182 pages | 42 B/W Illus.

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Growing disenfranchisement with political institutions and policy processes has generated interest in trust in government. For the most part, research has focused on trust in government as a general attitude covering all political institutions. In this book, Scott E. Robinson, James W. Stoutenborough, and Arnold Vedlitz argue that individual agencies develop specific reputations that may contrast with the more general attitudes towards government as a whole.

Grounded in a treatment of trust as a relationship between two actors and taking the Environmental Protection Agency as their subject, the authors illustrate that the agency’s reputation is explained through general demographic and ideological factors – as well as policy domain factors like environmentalism. The book presents results from two approaches to assessing trust: (1) a traditional attitudinal survey approach, and (2) an experimental approach using the context of hydraulic fracturing. While the traditional attitudinal survey approach provides traditional answers to what drives trust in the EPA, the experimental results reveal that there is little specific trust in the EPA across the United States.

Robinson, Stoutenborough, and Vedlitz expertly point the way forward for more reliable assessments of trust, while demonstrating the importance of assessing trust at the agency level. This book represents a much-needed resource for those studying both theory and methods in Public Administration and Public Policy.


Across the Western world we have witnessed an erosion of trust in public institutions over the past decade. Against this daunting backdrop, Scott E. Robinson, James W. Stoutenborough, and Arnold Vedlitz challenge us to embrace a much more nuanced world view where the reputation of government agencies can diverge from a general path of low trust and decline. They do so in a convincing manner, by introducing experimental and observational data that is explored with clear theoretical predictions derived from public administration, political science, and psychology. - Asmus Leth Olsen, University of Copenhagen

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Perspectives on Trust in Government

Chapter 3: A Theory of Trust in Administrative Agencies

Chapter 4: Assessing Trust in the EPA

Chapter 5: Building a Model of Trust in the EPA

Chapter 6: Demographics and Trust in the EPA

Chapter 7: Political Attitudes and Trust in the EPA

Chapter 8: Issue-Specific Attitudes and Trust in the EPA

Chapter 9: Conclusion

Appendix A: The Energy Policy Survey Instrument


About the Authors

Scott E. Robinson is the BellmonChair of Public Service at the University of Oklahoma. His research and teaching focus on the management of public service organizations as they cope with various forms of disasters or extreme events.

James W. Stoutenborough is an Assistant Professor at Idaho State University. His research and teaching interests include public policy, public opinion, and political psychology with a substantive interest in science and technology, environmental, and energy policy.

Arnold Vedlitz is holder of the Bob Bullock Chair in Government and Public Policy at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University. His teaching and research focus is on science and technology policy and environmental and natural resources policy.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Public Administration and Environmental Sustainability

Climate change, loss of habitat and biodiversity, water security, and the effects of new technologies are placing pressure at all levels of government for effective policy responses. Old policy solutions and the administrative processes associated with them are sometimes inadequate and even counterproductive for effectively addressing these sustainability issues. The challenge for societies worldwide often is how best to harness in the public interest the dynamism of markets, the passion and commitment of nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations, and the public interest-oriented expertise of career civil servants at all levels of government. Routledge Studies on Public Administration and Environmental Sustainability will focus on core public administration questions as they relate to the topics of environmental, energy, and natural resources policies, and which together comprise the field of environmental sustainability.

The objective is to provide a forum for addressing the range of issues of concern in the field of public administration as they bear on environmental sustainability, as well as to alert policy makers to the managerial implications of the policy choices they make. Proposals are welcome which focus on the policy and management challenges, choices, and opportunities that environmental sustainability poses for public management, especially as these relate to the managerial, political, legal, and market-related dimensions of effective public administration.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Affairs & Administration
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy