Precise performance: Do citizens rely on numerical precision as a cue of confidence?

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Asmus Leth Olsen


Performance management, Behavioral public administration, Performance information


Recent research suggests that precise numbers signal confidence and are more potent anchors. This idea runs counter to the emphasis on simplicity in the presentation of performance numbers found in performance management and measurement research. Regardless, political-administrative systems are dominated by numerical information when it comes to evaluating performance or setting future performance goals. This article presents a set of experiments that test how well the precision effect translates in a political-administrative setting (n=1,505). The findings provide no convincing evidence of a precision effect. Citizens' evaluation of performance numbers seem to be largely unaffected by the roundness or precision of their numerical value. This is the case even if the numerical information is presented without any explicit political cues or are framed as non-manipulative expert judgments.

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