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14 June 2022

Study finds Europeans are 'not ready' for citizens' assemblies

Britons and Europeans are not yet ready for deliberative citizens’ assemblies, a new study found.

The study was based on an original survey conducted with more than 15,000 adults across 15 Western European countries

Many see deliberative citizens’ assemblies as an effective method of re-engaging with those who are politically disengaged. These assemblies consist in letting a small group of randomly selected citizens discuss and deliberate on some political topics before making concrete proposals to politicians.

In a new study, researchers found that citizens who hold negative views of political elites and who do not themselves feel politically competent would be the most supportive of the idea of citizens’ assemblies.

However, they also found that these citizens do not particularly hold the ‘right’ motivations. They do not support the new institution itself because they think that it is a procedure that would benefit the wider political system. Rather, they see it a way to achieve their favourite policies.

The researchers noted: “Our results show that, although deliberative citizens’ assemblies have the potential to re-engage the disenfranchised, their supporters are not, yet, motivated by the institution itself and its collective benefits.

“This is at least the situation in Western Europe at the time of conducting our survey in 2020. Although deliberative citizens’ assemblies are increasingly used in these countries, the public does not seem to be sufficiently familiar with the institution's collective benefits for the political system.”

The study was based on an original survey conducted with more than 15,000 adults across 15 Western European countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

The findings were published in a new paper, Public support for deliberative citizens' assemblies selected through sortition: Evidence from 15 countries, co-authored by Dr Damien Bol (King’s College London), Dr Jean-Benoit Pilet, Dr Davide Vittori, and Dr Emilien Paulis all Université libre de Bruxelles.

You can read the study in full here.