Gaming the system: Responses to dissatisfaction with public services beyond exit and voice

Rik Peeters*, Anat Gofen, Oliver Meza

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Citizens' responses to dissatisfaction with public services are often portrayed as following one of four distinct patterns, each consistent with current provision structures: exit, voice, loyalty or neglect (EVLN). Citizens may also initiate efforts to access public services through more subversive supply mechanisms. This study focuses on ‘gaming’ as an additional, understudied response pattern, within which individuals aim at improving the personal outcome of public service delivery by exploiting, manipulating or working around current rules and arrangements. Survey analysis of citizens' responses to dissatisfaction in Mexico indicates that gaming is indeed a distinct response, which is positively related to the unavailability of exit and, to some extent, to low trust in government. As a response pattern that encompasses behaviours inconsistent with current policy arrangements, gaming emphasizes the need to distinguish service improvement as a public good as opposed to a private good and further unfolds ‘grey areas’ in citizen–government relationships.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)824-839
Number of pages16
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


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