Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Derina R. Holtzhausen, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Kenneth C. Killebrew, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kenneth C. Killebrew, Ph.D.


Co-orientational theory, Trust, Government, Florida department of transportation, Public involvement


This study explored public involvement within the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) using the co-orientational theory. Effective public involvement gives the public opportunities to be involved early in the planning and implementation of transportation projects that directly affect or may concern them. The co-orientational model looks at what an organization (FDOT) thinks about an issue (public involvement), what the public thinks of the issue, what the organization thinks the public thinks about the issue, and what the public thinks the organization thinks about the issue.

This study investigated whether the FDOT management has an accurate understanding of the perceptions of the public and communicates effectively with them. To achieve accurate perceptions of the public, management must interact with the public to identify issues that could become potential crises if not addressed at an early stage. This study examined whether there is true consensus or dissensus among the public and the FDOT management and looked at the perceptions of both groups and the distance between them to see if the needs of the public and the Department can both be met.

A critical part of this research included analyzing the opinions of the public to see if the public trusts government and the FDOT. Furthermore, this study set out to determine a relationship between trust and involvement and the different techniques used to communicate.

Research was gathered through surveys to the public and to FDOT management. The public surveys were handed out at transportation public meetings across the state of Florida over a period of six months to gain the public’s perception of the issue and the public’s estimate of the management perceptions. Surveys were also distributed to FDOT managers throughout the state of Florida to gain the manager’s perception of the issue and the manager’s estimate of the public’s perceptions.

A focus group was also conducted with the FDOT’s District Public Information Officers/Directors to gain the management’s perception of the issue and the management’s estimate of the public’s perceptions.

The FDOT management was not accurate in their perceptions of the public. False conflict exists when one party believes the other disagrees, but in actual fact, agrees. The latter is mainly the state where the FDOT and the public exist. The FDOT mostly thought the public had negative opinions about public involvement, but in reality, the public was satisfied with FDOT’s public involvement.

The following theoretical perspectives guided this study: co-orientation theory, situational theory, excellence theory, and issues, risk, and crisis communication.