352 | 30, pp. 351-368 | doxa.comunicación

January-June of 2020

The congruence between the legitimacy judgments of the public institution, the media and citizens

ISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978

1. Introduction

Recent reports by international organizations such as The World Bank or United Nations have expressed the need to carry out some research on the loss of trust in the public sector. These organizations have recommended facilitating the access to information, promoting involvement, building legitimacy, etc., with the aim of narrowing the gap between public institutions and citizens.

This study is focused on intangible assets, legitimacy in particular, to solve this problem. Legitimacy is an intangible asset based on perception. It cannot be created from scratch as it is based on real experiences, but a communicative strategy can be carried out so that it can be developed.

The present research explores the dynamics of legitimacy in a public leader and his organization with executive responsibilities in a central government. Specifically, an analysis of the basis for the construction of this intangible asset has been conducted: the congruence between the legitimacy judgements which the own public institution, the media and citizens make about the ministry and its ministers.

The study case selected has been the Ministers of Education, Culture and Sports in Spain from 2011 to 2015, José Ignacio Wert and Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, and the Spanish Ministry of Education. In order to provide a context for the situation, the minister José Ignacio Wert occupied the post from December 22, 2011 to June 24, 2015.

This minister launched a project to reform Secondary Education on January 31, 2012, resulting in a strike by trade unions, teachers and students. He was also in disagreement with rectors, with the education policy of Catalonia, etc. Moreover, he made controversial decisions concerning the obtaining of scholarships and the Erasmus programme, and he eventually decided to quit the post after continuing disagreements with the education community. According to data from the Spanish Centre for Sociological Research (CIS), Jose Ignacio Wert was among the lowest ranked ministers.

Iñigo Méndez de Vigo took over as minister of Education, Culture and Sports on June 25, 2015.

The purpose of this study is to bring citizens closer to public administrations in order to rebuild their trust by means of the intangible asset of legitimacy. Online legitimacy and media legitimacy are also dealt with as intangible assets.

1.1. Legitimacy as an intangible asset and its online conception

Intangible assets are present in the public sector (Bossi et al., 2005) and are necessary to satisfy the demands of citizens in terms of transparency and excellence in the services (Sánchez, 2008).

As a result of the economic crisis, citizens are losing trust in public administrations. The latter cannot meet the needs of citizens (Thomas, 2013) nor preserve the excellence level (Luoma-aho, 2007). This context also toughens the judgements that citizens make concerning corruption (Uslaner, 2010; Canel and García-Molero, 2013; Chen et al., 2013).

The concept of legitimacy has been addressed from different angles basing on the definition by Suchman (1995). This author defines legitimacy as ‘a widespread perception of the actions of an organization as being desirable, adequate or appropriate within a system socially built with norms, values, beliefs and definitions’ (1995:574).