Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Becker, Robert H
Ulbrich , Holley H
Horton , Paul M
Farris , John T
This study surveyed South Carolina county council elected officials and citizens to examine the local government decision-making process, as it relates to influence and power in the growth and development arena. At its center were both the Kettering Foundation's deliberative dialogue forum model and their assertion that citizens want, and need, to be infused into the process. The study has three significant findings. First, forums did not alter citizen perceptions on who holds power and influence within the local government power structure. Second, decision-makers did not alter on which groups influence them as the type of issue moves from routine to important. Third, the degree of influence by citizens, on elected officials, did not change as an issue moved from routine to important. In fact, the cross-tabulation suggested a negative correlation where citizen influence decreased as an issue became important.
The policy implications of the study were three-fold. First, the model's ineffectiveness raised questions on the future use of forums to effectively assist communities to overcome both the mistrust between citizens and elected officials, and to promote citizen influence in the process. Second, the study found no research to support the position that people want to be fully involved in the public policy process. This called into question the tenet that citizen involvement, through deliberation, will move the process from one based on `elite favoritism,' back to one that relies upon citizens to promote the public welfare. Third, the study found no statistical evidence to support the assertion of many Kettering associates that decision-makers will turn to the citizenry in
deciding important or `wicked' decisions. The results of this study raise significant policy questions that should lead the Foundation to reexamine its goals and tactics if they wish to achieve their stated goal of 'making democracy work as it should.'
Molnar, William, "Can Deliberation Alter Patterns of Influence? A Study on Local Government Decision-making and the Deliberative Dialogue Process" (2010). All Dissertations. 568.