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Researchers and policymakers have made the reduction of citizen alienation one of the important goals for decentralized public services. Decentralization is thought to bring government closer to the public being served, and therefore to improve public attitudes toward government. No existing research fully tests this hypothesis. However, several national surveys provide sufficient data to examine the relationships between various types of citizen activity linked with decentralization and the two dimensions of political alienation, powerlessness/efficacy and distrust/trust. A review of these surveys reveals that decentralized activity, whatever form it takes, is consistently associated with people's sense of efficacy, but not with their sense of trust. Thus, decentralization may affect alienation in terms of reducing sense of powerlessness, but it has no impact on people's trust in government. Decentralization of public services may therefore help to reduce citizen alienation toward government, but it will not, contrary to expectation, significantly impact on alienation alone.

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