Decision-makers, advisers or educable subjects? Policymakers' perceptions of citizen participation in a Nordic democracy

Vesa Koskimaa, Lauri Rapeli, Staffan Himmelroos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The perceived disconnect between policymaking elites and citizens has intensified demands for citizen engagement in democracies, but we know little about policymakers' attitudes towards increased citizen involvement. This study presents an in-depth, mixed-methods analysis of participatory views of politicians, public officials, and interest group representatives in Finland. We first utilize a unique survey battery presented to representative samples of policymakers (n = 675) and ordinary citizens (n = 1701). We then perform a qualitative content analysis for 24 in-depth interviews of high-ranking policymakers to explore reasons for the observed attitudes. We find that while citizens strongly support participatory attitudes, policymakers are more skeptical, especially when participation threatens their control of the policy process. Elite skepticism stems mainly from low trust in citizens' capacity to deal with complexity, and to relieve the pressure to engage citizens more elites support learning-based methods. The broad citizen-elite attitude gap may require re-negotiating representative mandates in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jan 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


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