Citizen Participation in Resource Allocation

By William Simonsen; Mark D. Robbins | Go to book overview

2
Contemporary Techniques
for Citizen Involvement

The current governmental climate is one in which interest group politics largely prevail in decision making and citizen trust is low. Some citizens perceive a peremptory arrogance in the demeanor of officials. Many government officials, whether elected politicians or professional staff, describe public hearings as dominated by angry and uninformed residents and activist groups. This climate exists concurrent with budget deficits and eroding public tolerance of taxation. Lost in these participatory opportunities are the insights of the vast majority of citizens, who are unable or unwilling to attend hearings. These are people with low-intensity or low-quantity interests ( Redford, 1969) or little rational reason for participation ( Downs, 1957). Contemporary efforts in citizen participation operate under the theoretical assumption that governments should reach out to include the public in their decision making. The further assumption made by many such as Daniel Yankelovich ( 1992) and Alan Kay and his colleagues ( 1992) is that citizens' opinions and insights may be captured in ways that reflect a considered judgment, as opposed to a cursory or reflexive response.

Polls are one way to reach such citizens. Polls have had their own impact on contemporary citizen participation. Public opinion research has allowed decision makers to know at any point in time what a majority of the population thinks about a variety of issues. As a result, decisions can be made that reflect the changes of attitudes over time. This can be considered one method of participation, but for many it is a rather unsatisfactory method. The veteran pollster Daniel Yankelovich ( 1992) argues that public opinion gathered in this manner is unstable and uninformed and that techniques of deliberation need to be employed to move citizens to a more developed stage of discourse. Voter participation rates are low. Trust in government continues to decrease. If the goal of polling is to bolster trust in government or increase participation, it has not worked.

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Citizen Participation in Resource Allocation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Notes xx
  • 1 - Theoretical and Historical Context of Public Participation 1
  • Notes 19
  • 2 - Contemporary Techniques for Citizen Involvement 21
  • Notes 42
  • 3 - How Do (citizens Balance the Budget? 45
  • Notes 70
  • 4 - How Fiscal Information and Service Use Influence Citizen Preferences 71
  • Notes 112
  • 5 - Conclusions: Lessons for Governments 115
  • Appendices 125
  • References 163
  • Index 173
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