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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Public Management Review

For a Special Issue on
The next generation of citizen satisfaction research: Theoretical and methodological advancements

Abstract deadline
03 January 2022

Manuscript deadline
01 December 2022

Cover image - Public Management Review

Special Issue Editor(s)

Nick Petrovsky, Department of Public Policy and Laboratory for Public Management & Policy, City University of Hong Kong
[email protected]

Richard Walker, Department of Public Policy and Laboratory for Public Management & Policy, City University of Hong Kong
[email protected]

Nathan Favero, School of Public Affairs, American University
[email protected]

Miyeon Song, School of Public Affairs and Administration, Rutgers University – Newark
[email protected]

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The next generation of citizen satisfaction research: Theoretical and methodological advancements

I. Aim of this special issue

Citizen satisfaction lies at the core of citizen-state relations, with broad implications for the management, performance, and legitimacy of public services and governments. Initial research on citizen satisfaction focused on citizen characteristics and citizens’ ratings of service quality (Hero and Durand 1985). Van Ryzin (2004) revolutionized the study of this fundamental concept with the introduction of the expectancy-disconfirmation model (EDM). The EDM’s core idea has been that a citizen’s satisfaction with a service depends not only on their perceptions of the quality of the service but also, and as importantly, on the expectations they hold for the service. A rich and empirically sophisticated literature developed in response.

By now, we have a good understanding of the insights that can be gained by drawing on this theoretical approach as well as its shortcomings and blind spots. Whilst the overall validity of the EDM framework has been demonstrated (Zhang et al. 2021), recent research is increasingly showing anomalies and limitations of the EDM (Favero and Kim 2020; Noda 2020). Also, there is a new focus on how exactly the measurement of service quality is linked to citizen satisfaction (Van Ryzin 2015; Song et al. 2021). It is therefore timely and relevant to create a dialogue among those working at the forefront of citizen satisfaction research and bring together their ideas with the aim of seeing the emergence of further theoretical innovations that usher in a new generation of citizen satisfaction research, which goes beyond the EDM.

We note three exemplary aspects that require theoretical innovation to be adequately understood in a more general framework of citizen satisfaction:

1. There are degrees of distance between the citizens whose satisfaction we study and the services they are reporting on, raising questions about the conceptualization of citizens (Roberts 2021). The shortest distance is found among users of a service that they understand on multiple levels. Greater distance exists where users do not understand the service that well. The distance is greatest where citizens at large think about a service they do not use. Satisfaction may not mean the same thing for different levels of distance between citizens and services, which has implications for the downstream consequences of satisfaction.
2. Both expectations and perceptions of performance may be prone to ideological and cognitive biases, making it more difficult to compare between citizens (Jilke and Baekgaard 2020; Andersen and Hjortskov 2016). Beyond such biases, systematic differences in the lived experiences of a diverse citizenry may have implications for expectations and satisfaction (Song et al. 2020). These and other puzzles require theoretical innovations and a richer set of research designs.
3. The characteristics of services, and the organizations that provide them, may be of direct consequence for what citizens see as the appropriate levels of service, how they perceive the quality of the services, and how satisfied they are with them (Song and Meier 2018; Song et al. 2021). Going beyond the micro-level centric EDM to also incorporate meso and macro level characteristics offers much promise.

II. The relevance of this special issue

Given its theoretical and practical centrality, citizen satisfaction research is well received and well cited in our field. For instance, the 17 studies covered by Zhang et al.’s (2021) meta-analysis of the literature together have received 1,859 citations, as indexed by Google Scholar on June 30, 2021. Contributions to the citizen satisfaction literature have been published in Public Management Review for around two decades, for instance, Andrews et al. (2011), Carvalho and Brito (2012), Filtenborg et al. (2017), and Grimmelikhuijsen and Porumbescu (2017). The special issue has the potential to kick-start and lead the next generation of citizen satisfaction research and thus be well cited by subsequent work, adding to Public Management Review’s very positive trajectory as one of the top journals in the field.

III. Call for papers

We seek a wide range of contributions related to citizen satisfaction research. For any paper to be included, it has to either:

1. Make a theoretical contribution above and beyond the EDM; or
2. Include an advancement in research design (including the study population) that sheds light on one of the shortcomings and blind spots of existing research using the EDM.

With these two criteria, the special issue editors will be able to synthesize the various advancements into an enhanced theoretical and methodological framework for citizen satisfaction research, which promises to be a reference for future work. We seek papers with indicative themes such as:

Theoretical advances
-the relevance of citizen expectations and satisfaction in the broader process of public service delivery
-the influence of the political and societal context on the determinants and levels of citizen satisfaction, including citizen satisfaction in authoritarian and polarized contexts and in the presence of varying degrees of economic inequality
-distinctions between the nature of public services and satisfaction with them
-distinctions between service users and citizens at large
-distinctions between users of simple and complex services
-biases and how they relate to perceptions of performance and the updating of expectations
-possible systematic differences in expectations and satisfaction between groups of citizens, e.g., based on demographic characteristics, position in a societal hierarchy
-interaction between service providers and users and how these affect user satisfaction

Advances in research design (including generalizations covering new study populations)
-qualitative research to shed light on the formation and development of expectations
-qualitative research to identify dimensions of satisfaction
-validations of new survey measures of expectations and satisfaction
-physiological and behavioral measurement of satisfaction
-either empirical generalizations or generalizations and extensions of existing citizen satisfaction studies (cf. Tsang and Kwan 1999’s replication framework)
-explicitly comparative studies of citizen satisfaction, with special attention to measurement equivalence

We will be interested both in research using new theoretical or methodological approaches and extensions and generalizations of existing research, as long as the latter sheds light on one of the shortcomings and blind spots of existing research using the EDM, with the aim of moving the literature beyond the dominance of this theoretical approach. We will encourage authors to theorize their context and its implications, as laid out by Meier et al. (2017) and Walker et al. (2019). Finally, we are particularly interested in studies covering settings other than the U.S. and Western European countries.

Submission Instructions

For questions and informal conversations, please feel free to email any of the four special issue editors.

January 3, 2022
Abstracts of 250-500 words due. Please submit your abstract to [email protected]

By January 31, 2022
Editors provide feedback to authors and send invitations to online workshop.

Week of April 25 or May 2, 2022
Online workshop to discuss first drafts and overall themes. The special issue editors and leading contributors to the existing literature will provide feedback, including Gregg Van Ryzin and Oliver James.

December 1, 2022
Full manuscripts due for PMR peer review

Late 2023
Anticipated publication date of the PMR special issue (individual articles will of course be published earlier online as Latest articles on a rolling basis)

Instructions for Authors