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Professor Peter John

Professor Peter John

  • Academics
  • Supervisors

Head of the School of Politics and Economics and Professor of Public Policy

Research subject areas

  • Policy
  • Politics

Contact details


Peter John was a Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, University College London from 2011 until 2017. Previously he held appointments at the University of Manchester, Birkbeck, University of Southampton, and University of Keele. He has a DPhil from the University of Oxford and his first main job was as a Research Fellow at the Policy Studies Institute.

He became head of the School of Politics and Economics in July 2020.


Peter John is known for his work on agenda-setting, local politics, behavioural interventions, and randomized controlled trials.

He is author of Analyzing Public Policy (2012), which reviews the main theories of public policy and the policy process. He has carried out empirical work on agenda-setting to find out why governments focus on particular policies, which is represented in the book, Policy Agendas in British Politics (Palgrave, 2013), co-authored with Anthony Bertelli, William Jennings, and Shaun Bevan. With Anthony Bertelli, he developed public policy investment as an approach to understanding decision-making, which was published as Public Policy Investment: Priority-Setting and Conditional Representation in British Statecraft (Oxford University Press, 2013).

He is interested in how best to involve citizens in public policy and management, often deploying behavioural interventions.  He tests many of these interventions with randomized controlled trials. Some of these trials appeared in Nudge, Nudge, Think, Think: Experimenting with Ways to Change Civic Behaviour (Bloomsbury, 2011). Practical issues with the design of experiments are covered in Field Experiments in Political Science and Public Policy (Routledge, 2017).

Experiments are also used to examine the impact of social media and politics in Political Turbulence: How Social Media Shape Collective Action (Princeton University Press, 2015), with Helen Margetts, Scott Hale and Taha Yasseri.

A more general approach to the use of the tools of government to achieve policy change is contained in his Making Policy Work (Routledge, 2011).  His current book, to be published in 2018, is a critical review of the use of behavioral public policies, called How Far to Nudge: Assessing Behavioural Public Policy (Edward Elgar).

Peter John has had a long interest in local politics and public management, again focusing on citizen choices.  Such work culminated in his book with Keith Dowding, Exits, Voices and Social Investment: Citizens’ Reaction to Public Services, Cambridge University Press, 2012. He is currently working with Oliver James at the University of Exeter on a project testing exit and voice with experiments.