States with coalitions for open government are more transparent, new study finds

A study published in the August 2021 edition of The Journal of Civic Information found that states with coalitions for open government are more likely to have counties that are more transparent, resulting in faster and more complete responses, as well as greater communication, in the public records process.

Marquette University’s A.Jay Wagner based the analysis on 1,002 records requests to nine states.

“Among the study’s findings are two uniquely strong predictors of better FOI results: The existence of an independent FOI advocacy organization in the state and a legislature subject to the law,” according to Wagner’s abstract. “The findings suggest cultivating a culture of transparency may be as or more important than any of the generally considered legal variables, such as deadlines or penalties.”

In an editor’s note for The Journal of Civic Information, David Cuillier, associate professor at the University of Arizona School of Journalism and board president for the National Freedom of Information Coalition, said the study shows that independent advocacy organizations improve the information ecosystem.

“The growing body of research indicates that nonprofit coalitions for open government make a difference, and they should be supported generously if we want to maintain this experiment we call democracy,” Cuillier wrote.