The Gladys M. Kammerer Award is presented annually by the American Political Science Association (APSA) to honor the best book published during the previous calendar year in the field of U.S. national policy.
Amy E. Lerman is Associate Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy, Co-Director of The People Lab, and Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research is focused on issues of race, public opinion, and political behavior, especially as they relate to punishment and social inequality in America. She is the author of two books on the American criminal justice system – The Modern Prison Paradox (2013) and Arresting Citizenship (2014). Her most recent book, Good Enough for Government Work, examines how perceptions of government shape citizens’ attitudes toward privatization. Professor Lerman’s scholarship can also be found in a wide variety of academic journals and has been featured in numerous media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, CNN, and NPR. In addition to her academic work, Lerman has served as a speechwriter and communications consultant for national nonprofits and members of the United States Congress, a community organizer in Latin America and Southeast Asia, and an adjunct faculty member of the Prison University Project at San Quentin State Prison. She consults widely on issues related to prison reform, access to higher education, and law enforcement mental health.
Citation from the Award Committee:
In Good Enough for Government Work: The Public Reputation Crisis in America (And What We Can Do to Fix It, Amy Lerman offers one of the most riveting books to date on how the government’s reputation can shape citizens’ perceptions on public policy and governmental services. The book is an engaging read that is well-argued, cleverly developed, and flawless executed. It deftly integrates a framework that has long been applied to understanding how businesses craft their reputations among consumers and uses it to explain why much of the public is so reluctant to turn to the federal government to solve its problems. Using an impressive combination of longitudinal survey data and experiments, Lerman convincingly demonstrates that the government’s poor reputation doesn’t merely manifest in poor evaluations from citizens, but that it also has practical consequences by leading Americans to opt-out of government run programs altogether. It is an impressive work which engenders rethinking regarding the interplay between public attitudes and policy outcomes. The insights are particularly apt for understanding the current COVID-19 crisis, both in terms of how the public takes a skeptical view of what government can actually do to help, but also for how the crisis may further damage the government’s reputation in the future.
APSA thanks the committee members for their service: Professor Diane J. Heith (chair), St. John’s University; Daniel Gillion, University of Pennsylvania; and Brian Schaffner, Tufts University.