The Information Environment of State Agency Heads: Variations in Contact, Information Seeking, and Inclusiveness
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
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State agency administrators perform similar tasks across vastly different environments throughout the American states on a daily basis. These agency heads perform their duties at a unique nexus of politics, policy, and administration within the fragmented yet networked web of intergovernmental relations. Various studies focused on the policy process and policy diffusion have noted the importance that members of the bureaucracy can have as policy entrepreneurs, information brokers, or agents of change but little is known about their interactions with other actors during business-as-usual governance. This study examines state administrators’ frequency of contact, frequency of information seeking, and inclusion of other political actors in their information environment. Data collected from an original survey of state agency heads in all 50 states showed that, of 21 different actors examined, agency heads most frequently have contact with administrators in the same state, clientele, citizens, gubernatorial staffers, and state interest groups. These same actors are also who state agency heads seek out most frequently for information. Variables relating to individual exposure to outside actors, increased agency capacity, and the presence of competing interests within a state were analyzed for their propensity to increase contact or information seeking behaviors of state administrators. Additionally, the level of inclusiveness of an administrator, defined as the number of frequent information sources he or she seeks out, was explored. The results show that variables related to exposure (tenure, experience, organizational affiliation) to external actors have a positive effect on contact, information seeking, and inclusiveness. Budget capacity also influences the three dependent measures but with variations in the direction of the effect. Competing interests within an administrator’s state positively affect inclusiveness but had mixed effects for contact and information seeking for the relationships examined in this study. Frequent contact with an actor in the information environment positively effected the likelihood of seeking that actor out for information. The goal of this project was to contribute to a general understanding about the information environment and behaviors of state administrators. It informs ongoing scholarly and policy debates about diffusion, networks, the role of public administrators in the policy process, and bureaucratic behaviors and decision making.