Legitimate public participation: A Q methodology on the views of politicians

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Governments seem to be trapped in a legitimacy paradox. While politicians and public managers, especially on the local level, increasingly initiate public participation to enhance the legitimacy of public decisions, the actual impact of citizens' input on political decision-making is often low, contributing to a loss of legitimacy. To solve this paradox, this article unravels the views of local politicians in the Netherlands on the democratic legitimacy of public participation via Q-methodology. Despite the large PA-scholarship on public participation, empirical research into how politicians view and value public participation remains scarce. The findings reveal politicians either prefer participation that is conditioned by government or participation that empowers citizens to speak up. Taking the views of politicians into account in designing public participation processes improves the chance that politicians will do justice to its outcomes and hence contributes to public participation that is not symbolical but meaningfully informs political decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Administration Review
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2022

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© 2022 The Authors. Public Administration Review published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Society for Public Administration.


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