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.