Can Citizen Governance Redress the Representative Bias of Political Participation?


Peter John is the Hallsworth Chair of Governance in the School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester, where he is a director of the Institute for Political and Economic Governance. He has held posts at Birkbeck College and at the Universities of Southampton and Keele. He has interests in the public policy, urban political, and participation. He is the author of Analyzing Public Policy (1998) and Local Governance in Western Europe (2001). He was codirector of the U.K. Home Office's Civil Renewal Research Programme in 2004–2005.


Can a more collaborative form of public management correct for the historical link between social and economic status (SES) and political participation? New initiatives to involve the citizen directly in public decision making—citizen governance—aim to include a wider representation of groups in society because they draw from service users and seek to recruit hard-to-reach groups. To test the claim that citizen governance may be more representative than other acts of political participation, this essay reports data from the 2005 English and Welsh Citizenship Survey. Using descriptive statistics and regression analysis, it finds evidence that citizen governance is more representative than civic activities, especially for young people and ethnic minority communities. Policy makers can fine-tune their interventions to reach underrepresented groups without believing the citizen governance is a panacea for long-running biases in civic participation.