A widespread feeling of discontent with the functioning of representative democracies has led to the acknowledgement that improved citizen participation is needed. Particularly, combinations of plebiscitary and deliberative instruments are often cited as possible way to meet this desire. However, pressing knowledge gaps in terms of effective combinations of these democratic instruments remain. This research aims to address these gaps by systematically studying the effects of hybrid democratic innovations on citizens and focuses in particular on effects on citizens in real-life cases.
This study specifically aims to tease-out various sorts of effects of hybrid democratic innovations. The common denominator across the various studies being individual level-differences. That is, amongst other things, (1) how (if any) and why individual-level differences in political trust and perceived responsiveness develop over time when participating in hybrid democratic innovations and (2) what the effects of political knowledge are when deliberation is added to a pre-referendum process.
This research studies these effects by having a focus on democratic instruments that are integrated in hybrid formats and take place in the Netherlands. Here, the research benefits from the strong collaboration with our consortium partners in the Practice Branch (e.g., Ministries of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) and Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W) and the umbrella organisation of Dutch municipalities (VNG)). These partners have strong links with the field, allowing us to (1) identify cases where local/provincial/national governments are willing to experiment with innovative hybrid design and (2) be involved in existing cases where governments organize their own hybrid participatory processes.
Methodologically, quantitative methods (surveys) are combined with qualitative methods (focus groups, in-depth interviews), while unobtrusive research (e.g., observation during citizen assemblies) is used for the triangulation and the validation of self-reports. To analyse the effects of participating in, or taking notice of hybrid democratic innovations, relevant attitudes and beliefs are measured before and after the use of the democratic instruments focused on – and where applicable and possible also during them (e.g. at multiple points in a referendum campaign or the work of a citizen assembly). The findings of this research will be merged into an article-based Ph.D. dissertation at the end of the consortium’s lifespan.