Mini-Publics and Public Opinion: Two Survey-Based Experiments

Shelley Boulianne - 2017

In intense forms of public consultations, select groups of citizens, called mini-publics, are given a large amount of information and then asked to deliberate on policy directions and make recommendations. Government officials may refuse to act upon these recommendations, unless they are convinced that the recommendations have wider support in the populace. This article presents the results of two survey-based experiments that assess the impact of mini-publics on the opinions expressed by random digit dialing samples of the general public. The survey-based experiments were conducted in 2013 (n=400) and in 2014 (n=400). Being informed about the mini-publics affected support for some policies, but not others. In both studies, respondents who were informed about the mini-publics reported higher levels of political efficacy compared to the condition where respondents were not informed about the mini-public. Hearing about these mini- publics helps to generate a sense of legitimacy in the political system.