April 3, 2002

The Rise of the E-Citizen: How People Use Government Agencies' Web Sites

Part 3: Different types of government Web site users

Three variables are strongly associated with differences among those who use government agency Web sites

We have found that three variables are strongly associated with differences among those who use government agency Web sites: frequency of use, trust in government, and length of time online.

  • Frequent visitors – 19% of those who use government Web sites fall into this category

Some of our previous reports on other subjects have shown that those who frequently visit specific types of Web sites tend to rely on those sites more than occasional visitors do. Frequent visitors also have the greatest levels of satisfaction with the results that they find. We found the same associations among government Web site users: Those who visited government Web sites once a week or more often looked for more kinds of information than less frequent users and frequent users reported higher levels of satisfaction than those who were less frequent visitors. Many said they were interacting better with their governments because of the information they found on the Web.

Differences between frequent and infrequent users of government Web sites

Frequent government site users tend to have professional motives behind their visits – perhaps in part because many are already government employees.  Government employees are more likely than others to look for jobs at government job sites. Some 23% of those who use government Web sites work for the public sector, but they constitute 42% of frequent surfers. Frequent visitors are more likely than occasional visitors to use government Web sites while at work. Half (49%) of frequent visitors last visited a government site from work, compared to only 30% of other government site users.

Work demands appear to be the main characteristic distinguishing frequent government site users from others.  There are more men in this group (56%) than women. And they are often veteran Internet users. Other than that, there are few differences that can be attributed to standard demographics.  Frequent users of government sites are no more likely than others to have a college education, or to belong to a specific racial or ethnic group.

  • High trusters – 24% of those who use government Web sites fall into this category

Trust in government correlates with having a good online experience at government Web sites. Those with a high trust in government generally think the quality of government Web sites is good, they say they find what they’re looking for on the sites, and they feel the sites improve communications between the government and its citizens.

There are few traits that distinguish the high trusters from the low.  However, those who show high trust in government and who visit government Web sites are disproportionately Republican. While 34% of government Web site visitors are Republican, full 47% of high-trusting visitors affiliate with the GOP.

  • Internet veterans – 50% of those who use government Web sites have five or more years of Internet experience

Our previous studies have shown that online experience leads to better searching and better navigating of Web sites. In the case of government site users, the population is split roughly half and half between those who have four years or fewer of online experience, and those who have five years or more. We found that five-year Internet veterans visited more types of government Web sites, looked for more types of information, and engaged in more actual transactions while at the sites than non-veterans.

Activities at government Web sites associated with frequent use