Citizen satisfaction with federal government services hits all-time low

The U.S. Treasury is the lowest ranked federal agency in terms of customer satisfaction, according to a recent survey.

The U.S. Treasury is the lowest ranked federal agency in terms of customer satisfaction, according to a recent survey. Richard Sharrocks/Getty Images

The American Customer Satisfaction Index 2021 Federal Government Report showed citizen satisfaction in government services in a freefall over the last four years, with declines across all driving indicators of satisfaction.

Citizen satisfaction with federal government services continued a four-year plummet and dropped to an all-time low score of 63.4% in 2021, according to an American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) annual report released on Tuesday.

The ACSI Federal Government Report showed satisfaction in federal government services declining 2.6% throughout 2021, a year defined by the COVID-19 pandemic and growing political tensions amid fallout from the national election – which the ACSI suggested were contributing factors to an “unprecedented run of negative movement in the index."

The ACSI, an independent national economic indicator, assesses four areas of citizen satisfaction across dozens of popular programs and agencies in its annual report about the federal government: efficiency and ease of government processes, ease of accessing and clarity of information, courtesy and professionalism of customer service and perceptions of government website quality. All four indicators showed declines between 2020 and 2021, reflecting "a broad erosion of the quality of federal government services experienced by citizens" last year, the report said.

Citizen satisfaction in efficiency and ease of government processes fell the most sharply, dipping from 68% in 2019 to 63% in 2021. Satisfaction in government websites also dropped off another 1% to 70% in 2021, after falling 4% the year prior.

The Interior Department had the highest citizen satisfaction score out of all federal agencies assessed in the latest report at 77%, and was the only agency to surpass the ACSI economy-wide customer service satisfaction benchmark for 2021. The Treasury Department ranked the lowest of all agencies at 54%. 

The report was based on interviews with 2,387 respondents across political affiliations who engaged with federal government services throughout the year, and indicated similar declines between self-identified Democrats and Republicans. The only slight increase in citizen satisfaction for federal services in 2021 was among independents and respondents who did not identify with a political affiliation, according to the report. 

Still, the continued declines among respondents with various political affiliations "reinforces the existence of a widespread erosion in the perceived quality of government output across citizens," the report said. 

The latest survey results showed the federal government score at its lowest recorded level. The previous record-low of 63.9 was recorded in 2015, which followed two years of improved citizen satisfaction before the current four-year decline.