How and When Democratic Values Matter: Challenging the Effectiveness Centric Framework in Program Evaluation

Yixin Liu

Abstract

Performance information is overwhelmingly used in program evaluation by both public managers and external stakeholders. In the market-based New Public Management movement, effectiveness is public programs’ major selling point. However, this approach may marginalize the role of democratic values in governance. In the current complex society with antigovernment sentiments, we embrace the idea of New Public Service to reiterate the importance of democratic values. Using a conjoint experiment, we compare the effects of effectiveness and democratic values in predicting public program adoption support, conditioned on citizens’ trust in government. Our results show that effectiveness and democratic values contribute similar effects in explaining policy preferences; distrust in government strengthens the effect of democratic values but reduces the effect of effectiveness. Our findings challenge the prevalent effectiveness centric framework in public management. We suggest that citizen-state interaction should not rely only on performance merits, but also on inclusiveness and openness values.

Yixin Liu
Yixin Liu
PhD Candidate