The GW GPA Study


First of Its Kind Study Offers Roadmap to Improve Public Trust
in Government 



The first year of the GW Government and Public Affairs (GPA) Study gathered input from federal, state and private sector communicators, as well as communications professionals who engage with the government on behalf of corporations and nonprofit associations.  

The second year of the multi-year research partnership examined the trust and effectiveness in government communications from the perception of the general public.

This study was completed in partnership with The National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC), Schoen Cooperman Research (SCR), Ragan and Axios.

Larry Parnell at podium answering questions from audience


Larry Parnell

"In our second year of the GPA study, we surveyed members of the public along with communications practitioners. This yielded some important insights, notably the significant gap in the perceived effectiveness of government communications between practitioners and the public. This is a challenge that needs to be addressed to restore trust and one that our degree programs are well positioned to address."

Larry Parnell
Associate Professor
Strategic Public Relations Program Director


Second Year Key Findings

Perception of Government

  • U.S. adults perceive the government as ineffective, untrustworthy, and driven primarily by political motives
  • Conversely, communication practitioners within government view it as effective and trustworthy
  • Those in the private sector align more with the negative outlook of the general public

Challenges in Communication

  • Both U.S. adults and communication practitioners recognize misinformation/disinformation and political polarization as significant challenges to public trust in government messaging
  • While U.S. adults cite dishonesty, communication practitioners in both government and the private sector also attribute the lack of trust to executional issues such as timeliness, audience segmentation and messaging clarity

Role of Artificial Intelligence

  • Despite recognizing the potential benefits of artificial intelligence (A.I.), all three groups express opposition to its use in government communications, citing privacy violations and potential for misuse and a further decrease in trust

Impact of 2024 Election

  • While the 2024 election has not yet significantly impacted non-government communication practitioners' day-to-day jobs, there is widespread concern across both government and the private sector about its impact on their work post-election

Employee Activism

  • Private sector communication practitioners emphasize the importance of employer alignment with their personal values and express support for employee-led activism where appropriate


The GW GPA study underscores the urgent need for increased transparency, tackling misinformation/disinformation, and addressing political polarization to enhance public trust in government messaging. It also reinforces the need for additional training for government communicators, and others, in communications strategy, notably social media usage. The insights gleaned from this study will inform strategic initiatives aimed at strengthening communication strategies at all levels of government, which is a core mission for the school’s Masters in Strategic Public Relations.

Download 2024 Report (Year Two)


First Year Key Findings

Reasons for Lack of Public Trust in Government

The rise in disinformation is harming public trust in government

GPA report table 2 68 percent blue and buff bar chart

The government is viewed as being politically-motivated

blue and buff bar chart with 58 percent


Among the results, two things are clear. First, to increase the effectiveness of government communication, messaging and method of delivery need to be modernized and diversified. Second, ongoing training and education are vital to long-term success. 

  • 56% of communication practitioners surveyed believe the public only “somewhat trusts” government information.

  • 68% of respondents cited disinformation and 58% identified a view that government communications are politically motivated as the key contributors to the decline in trust.

  • Other major reasons cited include a one-size-fits-all approach (31%), the government sharing information too slowly (reluctance to report) (25%) and an outdated approach to communications strategy (23%).

Next Steps

Respondents recommended the following steps to improve trust and the quality of government communications:

  • Modernizing communications to reach diverse audiences and more socioeconomic categories.

  • Devoting resources to hire and train talent and support continuing education in communications and digital media for professionals.
  • Utilizing social media more effectively.

Download Year One Findings



Carly Cooperman

"I am thrilled to contribute to this groundbreaking report examining public trust in government communication. Along with the Strategic Public Relations faculty and our other partners, we have embarked on a comprehensive, three-year study that we hope will help improve public service and trust in communication by government communicators and leaders across the country. These first year results reveal opportunities for growth and improvement that we hope will be useful to practitioners."

Carly Cooperman
GSPM alumna & GSPM Board of Advisors member
Partner and CEO, Schoen Cooperman Research


mic and podium