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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

Civic Engagement

Much of my research concerns "civic engagement," a broad term that encompasses everything from participation in politics, community affairs, and public life. My research largely falls into three often interrelated and overlapping categories. Communication in small groups contains research specifically addressing small groups and the context in which they effectively communicate and cooperate; it also addresses the unique civic impact—both on jurors and the larger political system—of jury service. Public forums, civic education, and political socialization contains research related to the broader educative and socializing impacts of civic and political participation and engagement, with participation entailing that in formal public settings, such as the National Issues Forum, informal settings, such as face-to-face political conversations, and jury service. Public opinion and civic attitudes contains research regarding the opinions that publics form toward each other, institutions, and the outside world, with a focus on the cognitive, social, and political mechanisms through which those opinions are formed, maintained and decidedly changed.

Outside of those three topics and the research contained therein, I write at length about civic engagement in four published books: Democracy in small groups: Participation, decision making, and communication(1993…I recently published a 2nd updated and revised edition); Political Communication and Deliberation (2008); The group in society (2010); 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 development and implementation of, a website that serves to aggregate experiments and innovations in participatory and deliberative politics and governance from around the world, so that their impact can be compared and their improvement and subsequent implementation, streamlined. I evaluate its potential in the following article: The potential of Participedia as a crowdsourcing tool for comparative analysis of democratic innovations.

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