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John Gastil Portrait


Communication Arts & Sciences and Political Science Senior Scholar, the McCourtney Institute for Democracy
The Pennsylvania State University


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Topic Map

Research Topic Map Civil society and protest groups Communication in small groups The Australian Citizens' Parliament Jury behavior The Democracy Machine (online platform) The Group in society Democracy in Small Groups Civic Engagment The Jury and Democracy Group Decision Making Governance Theory and Practice of deliberative democracy Political Communication and Deliberation Delib. Democracy Handbook Democracy in Motion By Popular Demand The Citizens' Initiative Review Public forums, civic education, political socialization Direct Democracy
Sortition as an alternative to elections Public opinion and civic attitudes Public Opinion and Atts. Elections Cultural Cognition Project Voter Behavior, election dynamics, and campaings

Public Opinion and Attitudes

Citizens use common languages and discourse to engage in discussion and debate about current public issues. These exchanges can change minds and, ultimately, shift public opinion. This changed public opinion, in turn, works through electoral institutions to impact political outcomes. Much of my research has studied these three phenomena.

A review of my research relating to the opinions that publics form toward each other, institutions, and the outside world can be found in Public opinion and civic attitudes. The same review for the processes whereby and mechanisms through which those opinions change, particularly as they relate to deliberative forums, can be found in Public forums, civic education, and political socialization. Lastly, the same can be found for how that same opinion evolution then manifests itself within the political system in Voter behavior, election dynamics, and campaigns.

I also write at length about public opinion in: By popular demand(2000); Political communication and deliberation(2008);The jury and democracy: How jury deliberation promotes civic engagement and political participation(2010); and Democracy in motion: Evaluating the practice and impact of deliberative civic engagement (2012).

I have also contributed toward the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School; this project brings together academics of various disciplines, particularly those of social psychology, anthropology, communications, and political science, to study the tendency for individuals to form their beliefs toward disputed and politicized matters not through careful consideration of fact and evidence but rather through the values inherent to their self-perceived cultural identity. A larger goal of this project is to identify specific processes of democratic decision making that can overcome disputes arising due to this tendency, but that at the same time don’t dilute the policymaking process.

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