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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


I have focused principally on two varieties of elections--competitive contests for public office and initiative/referenda votes. A hub containing all previous work on competitive, candidate-centric contests can be found at Voter behavior, election dynamics, and campaigns; the same regarding work on initiative/referenda votes can be found at Direct democracy (initiatives and referenda).

In By popular demand: Revitalizing representative democracy through deliberative elections I suggest ways of improving both kinds of elections. A version of one of those reform ideas first appeared in Oregon in 2010 through the Citizens' Initiative Review, and has since been adopted in other states. For more information, see Citizens’ Initiative Review Research Project

I have also followed elections in the U.S. closely and have often commented on local and state elections. In previous years, I have managed campaigns for everything from city council to U.S. Congress, including my mother's 1992 campaign, a snippet of which I have recounted publicly.

More recently, I have 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 regarding 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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