The Role of Social Media in Supporting U.S. Citizens’ Trust in Government

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Fall 11-22-2020

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This qualitative study was designed to examine citizen trust in government relations. Data consisted of information from 23 semistructured interviews from 14 consumers/clients and 9 information technology coordinators in Oakland, California participating in a 501 C3 nonprofit agency and 2019 Pew Center surveys. Data were analyzed using content analysis and cross-verified through the process of data source triangulation. Results of each group interviews in comparison to survey results from the Pew Research Center’s 2019 Trust and Distrust in America study indicated that participants demonstrated trust in social media platforms, and these platforms informed participants’ views on their trust in government. Both the interviews and surveys from the Pew Research Center Trust and Distrust in America data indicated social media platforms may be useful in enhancing trust in government, with considerations made for how communication was structured and relationships building. Overall, the data sources suggested that with more government information disseminating online through the public communicating directly with government officials and politicians, citizen trust in government possibly could be improved. Moreover, direct interactions between the agent and the principal, such as through social media platforms, may increase perceptions of trust and enhance citizen–government relations. This trust is predicated on using principal–agent theory to gauge authenticity of those officials or politicians on the other end of the social media platform. Knowledge from this study may be useful for governments, policymakers, and citizens to enhance trust in citizen-government relations resulting in positive social change.

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