Explaining non-participation in deliberative mini-publics

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This article investigates citizens’ refusal to take part in participatory and deliberative mechanisms. An increasing number of scholars and political actors support the development of mini-publics – that is, deliberative forums with randomly selected lay citizens. It is often argued that such innovations are a key ingredient to curing the democratic malaise of contemporary political regimes because they provide an appropriate means to achieve inclusiveness and well considered judgment. Nevertheless, real-life experience shows that the majority of citizens refuse the invitation when they are recruited. This raises a challenging question for the development of a more inclusive democracy: Why do citizens decline to participate in mini-publics? This article addresses this issue through a qualitative analysis of the perspectives of those who have declined to participate in three mini-publics: the G1000, the G100 and the Climate Citizens Parliament. Drawing on in-depth interviews, six explanatory logics of non-participation are distinguished: concentration on the private sphere; internal political inefficacy; public meeting avoidance; conflict of schedule; political alienation; and mini-public's lack of impact on the political system. This shows that the reluctance to take part in mini-publics is rooted in the way individuals conceive their own roles, abilities and capacities in the public sphere, as well as in the perceived output of such democratic innovations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)640-659
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Deliberative Democracy
  • Democratic Innovations
  • Mini-public
  • Political Participation
  • Random Selection
  • mini-public
  • democratic innovations
  • political participation
  • deliberative democracy
  • random selection


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