Keeping Up With E-mail

Governing takes a look at governors' constituent service
by | June 2007

How long does it take to respond to an e-mail? For governors' offices, sometimes a few minutes, sometimes several weeks.

A recent Governing survey tested how quickly gubernatorial staffers read e-mails from constituents and send them an answer. We tested governors because, as the most visible representatives of state government, they are ultimately responsible for answering questions and complaints from citizens.

An electronic message was sent to 49 governors' offices through the general electronic contact information listed on each governor's site. (Mississippi offers no electronic contact option on the governor's Web site.) Each state was asked to reply as soon as it received the e- mail, which was identified as a response test. No action other than a simple reply was required.

About half of the governors' offices responded within 24 hours, with the fastest replies coming from Nevada (3 minutes), Indiana (7 minutes) and Connecticut (10 minutes). Many states, however, displayed far less attentiveness to their inboxes.

The survey didn't uncover regional differences between the states or much difference between the responsiveness of Democratic and Republican governors. Size, however, did seem to matter. Smaller states were faster: Of the first 17 states to respond, only one-- Georgia--is among the nation's 10 most populous.

Most of the messages Governing submitted weren't sent to traditional e-mail addresses because most governors no longer list them on their Web sites. Rather, they have contact links that prompt the public to fill out e-mail Web forms. These forms are used to collect information about the sender and are designed to cut down on spam.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman | Former Staff Writer |