Category: Goal 5. Good Government
Goal: A statewide system of governing that is efficient, effective, trustworthy, and responsible to citizens and their needs; and that actively promotes good citizenship and effective participation in decision-making.
New Jersey has played a prominent role in shaping American democracy, both in the founding of the country and in the more recent past. The state has taken a lead with landmark legislation and policies on sex offenders, land-use planning, energy efficiency, and other issues. However our citizens are generally ill informed about their own representatives, and voter turnout is decreasing. As our society and the choices that our representatives must make become increasingly complex, the lack of citizen awareness is an increasingly serious problem.
What indicators came out of the Sustainable State process, and how are we doing?
Percent of survey respondents who knew which party controls the legislature has fluctuated between 40% and 60% since the 1970s.
Voter turnout in both national and local elections has dropped since the 1960s.
What might we add to future indicator reports?
We know that voter turnout is low, but we are not sure why, or how to change it. Information about confidence in government and government performance may shed light on these questions. Indicators on government action, sensitive as they would be, could be a useful measure of whether the performance of public officials is improving. Indicators that capture the ease of routine transactions with the government might also be interesting; how long it takes to register a car, how long we wait on hold when we call the unemployment office, how long it takes to get a reply to a routine query emailed to the public information office of a state agency, how hard it is to find information on a state website. A broader concern is the relationship between the process of governing – how we choose our representatives – and what the government accomplishes. Future indicators may focus on government accomplishments in identifying and solving problems as well as the process by which it operates.