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Citizens' Evaluations of Participatory Democratic Procedures: Normative Theory Meets Empirical Science

Michael E. Morrell
Political Research Quarterly
Vol. 52, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 293-322
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. on behalf of the University of Utah
DOI: 10.2307/449220
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/449220
Page Count: 30
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Citizens' Evaluations of Participatory Democratic Procedures: Normative Theory Meets Empirical Science
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Abstract

Participatory democratic theorists claim that citizens would be transformed if they participated more directly in decision-making. These theorists, however, disagree about how participatory opportunities ought to be structured. In an attempt to integrate normative political theory and empirical political science, I examined one possible benefit of citizen participation: collective decision acceptance. Models of participation offered by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Stuart Mill are incompatible with contemporary participatory democracy, but Marsiglio of Padua offers a persuasive argument connecting participation and collective decision acceptance. In three experiments, I compared citizens' collective decision acceptance, individual assumption reevaluation, and group satisfaction for two different participatory structures - liberal and strong democratic procedures. Citizens' short-term perceptions were influenced most by their majority or minority status; with extended participation, however, the participatory structures significantly affected citizens' evaluations of the participatory process. Contrary to expectations, the liberal democratic group scored higher on all three measures. I theorize that participatory opportunities should occur frequently, across a variety of issues, and should be structured so that citizens do not feel personally attacked in the decision-making process.

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