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The Ambiguous Definition of Open Government: Parliamentarians, Journalists and Bloggers Define Open Government In Accordance With Their Interests

  • George W. Wootten (a1) and Simon J. Kiss (a2)
Abstract

We present the results of a 2014 survey of Canadian parliamentarians, journalists and bloggers in which respondents were asked to rank competing definitions of open government. Overall, respondents preferred to define open government in terms of access to information and sources. However, controlling for age, ideology and language, we also found that respondents in the different positions ranked definitions of open government differently. Journalists are more likely than any other group to define open government in terms of access to information and sources. In contrast, parliamentarians who were members of a governing party were as likely to choose definitions of open government that emphasized public participation as they were to choose definitions that emphasized access to information. Opposition parliamentarians share more similarities with government parliamentarians than with journalists. These results suggest that key actors in the Canadian policy landscape define open government in ways that are consistent with their institutional interests. We suggest that these results reflect ways in which open government operates more like a buzzword, which helps explain the common pattern whereby opposition parties make promises to be more open and, after taking power, operate in less open ways. Moreover, these results raise questions about the extent to which open government can actually operate as an organizing principle.

Nous présentons les résultats d'un sondage mené en 2014 auprès de parlementaires, de journalistes et de blogueurs canadiens dans lequel on a demandé aux répondants de classer les définitions concurrentes d’un gouvernement ouvert. Dans l'ensemble, les répondants ont préféré définir le gouvernement ouvert en termes d'accès à l'information et aux sources. Cependant, nous constatons également que dans leurs prises de position les répondants classent différemment les définitions en fonction de l'âge, de l'idéologie et de la langue. Les journalistes sont plus susceptibles que tout autre groupe de définir un gouvernement ouvert en termes d'accès à l'information et aux sources. Les parlementaires du parti au pouvoir sont susceptibles de définir un gouvernement ouvert tout autant en termes d'influence du public sur le processus politique que d'accès à l'information. Les parlementaires de l'opposition partagent plus de similitudes avec les parlementaires du gouvernement qu'avec les journalistes. Ces résultats suggèrent que les principaux acteurs du paysage politique canadien définissent le gouvernement ouvert d'une manière cohérente avec leurs intérêts institutionnels. Nous suggérons que cela reflète la façon dont le gouvernement ouvert fonctionne davantage comme un mot à la mode. Cela contribue à expliquer la tendance trop courante selon laquelle les partis d'opposition promettent d'être plus ouverts et, après avoir pris le pouvoir, agissent de façon moins ouverte. De plus, ces résultats soulèvent des questions quant à la mesure dans laquelle un gouvernement ouvert peut réellement fonctionner comme principe d'organisation.

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Corresponding author
*Corresponding author. Email: skiss@wlu.ca
Footnotes
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The data sets and R scripts to replicate these results are available at http://dx.doi.org/10.5683/SP/R1ETCO.

Footnotes
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Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique
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