Does mode of public outreach matter?

Authored by: Sheldon Gen , Erika Luger

The Routledge Handbook of International Local Government

Print publication date:  September  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138234727
eBook ISBN: 9781315306278
Adobe ISBN:


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Local governments have numerous available channels to engage the public in their decision making processes, but little research has examined the public’s preferences for different modes. Furthermore, a more fundamental issue is whether different modes would influence policy decisions. The literature spanning the purposes of public engagement, the modes of outreach, and public preferences for participation provide the theoretical linkages between modes of outreach and policy decisions. We test this hypothesis with evidence drawn from a municipal environmental planning project in San Francisco, USA. A survey was conducted with a stratified random sample of 803 households. Analysis of the data show significant relationships between respondents’ likelihood to engage different modes of public outreach, and their policy preferences. The findings strongly suggest that mode of outreach does indeed affect conveyed preferences, which in turn can affect policy decisions. The implications are both academic and practical. Academically, it highlights an overlooked aspect of public participation – demographic preferences for modes of outreach – while calling for greater examination of these theoretical links in broader policy contexts. Practically, it implores public agencies to actively seek representative participation rather than just more participation.

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