The Jury and Democracy: How Jury Deliberation Promotes Civic Engagement and Political Participation

By John Gastil; E. Pierre Deess et al. | Go to book overview
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Chapter 3
From Jury Box to Ballot Box

Voting holds a special place among democratic responsibilities, for it is the means whereby citizens choose their representatives and hold public officials accountable. It is also a good place to begin examining the jury’s impact because voting and jury service have a straightforward, plausible connection as civic acts. As legal scholar Vikram David Amar points out, “Jurors vote…. That is what they do.”1 Electoral participation is also the lone public action for which we have comprehensive public records, which permits a unique form of longitudinal analysis. Thus, it is with voting that we begin to test the real power of the jury as a public body poised at the center of the state, civil, and political society.

Our investigation comes late in the research cycle, as it has been well over a century since Tocqueville first hypothesized a relationship between the institution of jury service and civic engagement, yet this claim has gone untested. In the mid-1970s, political theorist Carole Pateman restated Tocqueville’s idea as a more general participation effect, whereby any form of civic engagement is likely to increase future civic participation.2 In the years that followed, there emerged no compelling investigation of the proposition. Reflecting on this dearth of evidence, both Pateman and fellow political scientist Jane Mansbridge declared that the participation effect might remain untested in perpetuity, as they doubted anyone could design and implement a suitable test.3 This chapter aims to provide one.


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Social science cannot easily ignore the thoughts and understandings of its subjects. If jurors conceived their service as dispiriting rather than inspiring,

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