Public servant stereotypes: It is not (at) all about being lazy, greedy, and corrupt

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


As stereotypes strongly influence social interactions, this study explores the stereotypical associations about public servants, and about various professions in the public sector as well as the for‐profit and non‐profit sectors. This leads to a better understanding of the theoretical and practical challenges, such as citizen behavior towards public servants, attractiveness, and political decisions about public service jobs. With a mixed‐method analysis of cognitive associations (7,470 associations by 415 respondents for 12 professions), the defining epithets of public servants are clarified, along with their positive or negative connotation. Despite the strongest associations for public servants being positive (caring, helpful, and dedicated), as an overall category, it has a less positive connotation, compared to some specific professions typical in the public sector (nurse, firefighter, and police). However, cognitive associations are substantially more positive for public servants, compared to politicians, lawyers, and salesmen.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)807 - 823
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 505027 Administrative studies
  • 211903 Science of management
  • 605005 Audience research


  • caring
  • cognitive associations
  • dedicated
  • firefighter
  • greedy
  • helpful
  • lazy
  • nurse
  • police
  • public
  • public servant
  • stereotype
  • stereotypes

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