Citizen-centric Governance Indicators: Measuring and Monitoring Governance by Listening to the People and Not the Interest Groups

Maksym Ivanyna, Anwar Shah


How can governance measurement be improved? Governance indicators influence development work and foreign direct investment, but this World Bank paper argues that current indicators are inadequate because they fail to conceptualise governance or to capture citizen opinion. It offers instead a citizen-centric framework for measuring governance quality based on four dimensions: responsiveness, fairness, responsibility and accountability. Governance is ‘an exercise of authority and control to preserve and protect public interest and enhance the quality of life enjoyed by citizens’.

For governance assessments to be useful for policy purposes, they must conceptualise governance and provide consistent criteria for measuring governance across countries and over time. Foremost concerns for such measurement should be citizens’ evaluation of governance in their own countries, supplemented by objective indicators.

Implementation of the proposed citizen-centric framework requires a worldwide survey with a uniform questionnaire that concentrates on critical indicators. In lieu of such a survey, rough measures of governance quality emerge from existing survey data (in this case, principally the World Values Survey), when the following steps are taken:

  • Choice of the dataset and underlying questions: The most significant challenge involves finding a dataset that contains appropriate questions, time, and geographical range. Each dimension of governance outcomes should contain subcriteria, which should in turn be matched to individual questions.
  • Assignment of weights: Weights are assigned to each subcriterion and criterion (i.e. governance outcome), appropriately tailored to the needs of specific research projects.
  • Evaluation of subcriteria: Subcriterion values are calculated as a sample mean of responses, from those questions assigned to the subcriterion. Standard error for the subcriteria is a sample deviation from these responses.
  • Evaluation of governance outcomes and governance indicators: With weights assigned, and means and standard errors calculated for all criteria, a weighted average of the aggregated governance indicators results.

A full ranking of aggregate governance indicators for 120 countries, based on a citizen-centric implementation of the World Values Survey (WVS), reveals significant differences with existing indicators. Both advantages and potential drawbacks of the new methodology, which would ideally be implemented in future with the Gallup World Poll (GWP) or a similar instrument, are highlighted by the following conclusions:

  • When compared to the indicators currently in use, these estimates show that governance was significantly under- or overestimated in 16 per cent of countries. Among the most overestimated were Vietnam, China, Iran, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia; among the most underestimated were Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Hungary. Use of the GWP in place of the WVS showed significant differences in 28 per cent of countries.
  • With estimates based on the WVS, citizens in 18 per cent of countries saw a significantly different trend in governance than has been shown by traditional indicators. Progress was underestimated in Venezuela, Argentina, Germany, Slovenia and the Philippines, among others, and overestimated in Montenegro, Turkey, Croatia, South Africa and Bulgaria.
  • The divergences highlighted by the citizen-centric framework may be attributed in part to fear of a given regime, the relative roles of citizen and government in society and external economic influence.
  • Limitations to this new methodology include differences in implementation from country to country and a lack of stratified random sampling for some countries, despite the survey organisation’s claims.
  • Important advantages of the citizen-centric framework include the ability to extend the results to include subnational rankings and particular variables (such as gender), and their free availability to all researchers.


Maksym, I. and Shah, A., 2010, 'Citizen-centric Governance Indicators: Measuring and Monitoring Governance by Listening to the People and Not the Interest Groups', Policy Research Working Paper 5181, World Bank, Washington, D.C.