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When Citizens DecideLessons from Citizen Assemblies on Electoral Reform$
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Patrick Fournier, Henk van der Kolk, R. Kenneth Carty, André Blais, and Jonathan Rose

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199567843

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199567843.001.0001

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Did Participants Become Better Citizens?

Did Participants Become Better Citizens?

(p.113) 7 Did Participants Become Better Citizens?
When Citizens Decide

Patrick Fournier

Henk van der Kolk

R. Kenneth Carty

André Blais

Jonathan Rose

Oxford University Press

Political theorists concerned with issues of public participation and deliberative democracy have argued that both can produce ‘better’ citizens. Existing empirical investigations of the effects of deliberation and participation on various civic attitudes, however, have produced largely weak and mixed results. The actual civic effects of citizen assemblies on its members are investigated. The analyses in the chapter indicate that citizen assembly members became more politically interested, more attentive to political news, and more informed about politics as a result of their experiences. Among other attitudes, only small changes were uncovered, and they were not consistently in the expected direction across all assemblies. Civic duty and opinions of citizens may have climbed slightly, but self-confidence, tolerance, and trust did not. Since citizen assemblies constitute the most intensive participatory and deliberative process yet implemented, this meagre evidence of attitude change will be disconcerting to those who believe that political participation improves citizenship.

Keywords:   political participation, deliberation, beneficial effects, civic attitudes

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