Tilburg School of Politics and Public Administration

The quest for credibility in politics and public administration: manifestations, drivers and implications.

Research Tilburg School of Politics and Public Administration

In politics and public administration, ‘credibility’ seems to have become an increasingly wanted, scarce and thus highly valued, commodity.

An elected politician like president Obama is admired by many because of his credible appearance. Some communication formats used by governments are criticized for lacking in credibility. Participation policies are appreciated to the extent in which they appear to be credible in the eyes of those who should participate.

  • How, when and why has credibility become such an important asset?
  • What does credibility in politics and public administration entail?
  • What does it depend on?
  • What are the characteristics of credible governance arrangements?
  • When is political or democratic leadership credible?
  • What does credibility mean to citizens and civil society?

In other words: what are the manifestations, drivers, and implications of the quest for credibility in politics and public administration?

Performative qualities

Credibility is related to, but not the same as acceptability. To be acceptable, a policy or format, a politician or another policy making actor in the public domain, needs to have a minimum of perceived effectiveness and legitimacy – this is what we know from previous research

To be credible and as such more sustainable, (speech) acts and artifacts in politics and public administration seem to need additional performative qualities that include things like:

  • Rhetoric
  • Timing
  • Appropriateness
  • Charisma
  • Eloquence
  • Responsiveness
  • Vision

Especially in network society, characterized by more horizontal forms of accountability, there seems to be a twofold challenge:

  • To regain and maintain the credibility of politics and public administration
  • To encourage credibility in other crucial actors in the public domain such as businesses, societal institutions and citizens.
What can we learn from efforts in the public domain to deal with this challenge – this is what we intend to find out in our research of the coming years.