Measuring Elected Official Accountability

Ed Burghard“People are going to ask themselves, ‘How do I feel about my life?’ If they feel good, they’ll vote for me.  If they do not, they will not.”  … Ohio Governor John Kasich

The Cincinnati Enquirer, 18 August 2013 edition, ran a story about Governor Kasich’s Administration.  The above quote caught my eye, because I believe it supports the use of the Xavier University American Dream Composite Index™ powered by Dunnhumby as a valid performance measure for elected officials (and economic development professionals).

As background, the ADCI is the first statistically validated quantitative measure of the American Dream.  The data is published monthly on a national level and annually on a state level.  It measures the sentiment of residents on how well they are doing in achieving their American Dream.

The ADCI measures 35 separate dimensions.  Each provides insight into where the opportunities are for a state to address resident perceived barriers.  Governors and economic development professionals can then use these data to inform strategic choices on asset creation, infrastructure investment, and public policy reform and/or citizen education.

Clear and Direct Accountability

In my mind, the primary objective for any elected official’s Administration should be to ensure residents have the opportunity to pursue and achieve their American Dream.  Most Governors are elected on a platform of improving the life of the residents they represent.  So it makes sense that their Administration success or failure is judged on whether or not they actually achieved that goal.  As Governor Kasich said, if enough people don’t feel their lives have improved public officials likely won’t be reelected.

However, in my opinion, waiting for the end of a Governor’s term to evaluate performance is not particularly useful.  It is useful to be able to objectively assess if progress is being made along the way.

The state level ADCI data provides a unique opportunity to create an annual report card on how well Gubernatorial Administrations are doing on enabling residents to achieve their American Dream.  Because the data reflect the sentiment of residents, positive changes suggest the Administration is doing a good job in helping to make the American Dream more achievable.  Negative changes would suggest more change is required to knock down perceived hurdles to achieving the American Dream.

So far, Xavier University has been able to make 2012 State level data available.  We can get a sense for which states appear to be doing a great job and which are perceived by their residents to have challenges.  The 2012 American Dream State ranking has been published and you can download it HERE.

For perspective, Montana is ranked #1 in the nation and New Mexico is ranked #2.  That means residents of these two states feel better about their ability to achieve their American Dream than residents in other states.  This is a function of performance across the 35 dimensions that make-up the ADCI metric.

Longitudinal Change Is Key

The absolute ADCI score for the state is important to know; and the relative performance of one state versus another on the 35 dimensions gives insight for strategic planning.  But, to determine the impact of an incumbent Governor’s Administration, you need to look at the ADCI data on a longitudinal basis.  Therefore year-over-year progress is what you need to calculate.

Unfortunately, these longitudinal data are not yet available.  However, work is underway to take the 2013 data available for comparison.  For perspective, the 2013 data will be available around the February 2014 timeframe.  My current plan is to publish a Report Card for each state that documents the change in dimension scores and the overall ADCI metric.  I think the Report Card will provide a very interesting look at whether a Governor’s Administration is positively impacting resident’s ability to achieve their American Dream or not.

And the great news is the timing allows the data to be published prior to the November 4, 2014 Gubernatorial elections in 36 states.  In addition, all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate will be contested. Hopefully the data will offer a unique perspective on how well incumbents are doing to better enable residents in their state to achieve their American Dream.

It is also exciting to note, that work is also underway at Xavier University to determine if the ADCI data can be made available on an MSA basis.  This would allow for absolute and comparative evaluation of a Mayor’s Administration.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will be able to publish a 2013 American Dream City Ranking Report in February 2014.

Bottom line?

I think, like on many things, Governor Kasich is on to something.  Elected officials should be held directly accountable to the residents in their community (or state).  They should be held accountable for whether their Administration is improving the lives of their residents or not.  And there is nobody in a better position to judge than the residents themselves.

The ADCI is a metric that offers a new and promising way to assess the performance of elected officials.

Your Thoughts?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the use of the ADCI data for evaluating the performance of elected officials.  Should they be held accountable for enabling residents to better achieve their American Dream?

Leave a Comment and Share Your Thoughts.

Read About My Journey To Learn More About The American Dream

American Dream Case Study Series

Indiana versus Michigan

Florida versus North Carolina

New York versus New Jersey

California versus Texas

Pennsylvania versus New York

North Carolina versus Texas

Ohio versus Michigan

How Easy Is It To Achieve The American Dream In Your State?

To view the complete set of State rankings based on the ADCI and five explanatory sub-indexes, simply click this button

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