Can decision transparency increase citizen trust in regulatory agencies? Evidence from a representative survey experiment

Stephan Grimmelikhuijsen*, Feie Herkes, Ian Leistikow, Jos Verkroost, Femke de Vries, Wilte G. Zijlstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Decision transparency is often proposed as a way to maintain or even increase citizen trust, yet this assumption is still untested in the context of regulatory agencies. We test the effect of transparency of a typical decision tradeoff in regulatory enforcement: granting forbearance or imposing a sanction. We employed a representative survey experiment (n = 1,546) in which we test the effect of transparency in general (providing information about a decision or not) and the effect of specific types of transparency (process or rationale transparency). We do this for agencies supervising financial markets, education, and health care. We find that overall decision transparency significantly increases citizen trust in only two of the three agencies. Rationale transparency has a more pronounced positive effect only for the Education Inspectorate. We conclude that the overall effect of decision transparency is positive but that the nature of the regulatory domain may weaken or strengthen this effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-31
Number of pages15
JournalRegulation and Governance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The cost of the data collection was covered by the Dutch Authority Financial Markets, Inspectorate of Education and the Health & Youth Care Inspectorate. Stephan Grimmelikhuijsen acknowledges a grant by the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (Grant Number VENI 451-15-024). A previous version of this article was presented at the ECPR SG Regulatory Governance 2018 Conference. The authors wish to thank Judith van Erp for her valuable feedback on this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors. Regulation & Governance Published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd


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