Jury Deliberation and Civic Engagement

Project: Research project

Project Details


A basic assumption of participatory democratic theory holds that civic engagement boosts an individual's political efficacy and increases future political participation. Though this empirical claim is important to political philosophy, public deliberation, civic engagement, and constitutional law, it has not been tested directly. To overcome the limitations of past research, this project tests the participation hypothesis in relation to the impact jury service has on electoral participation. The jury provides an ideal test because it is a non-voluntary, institutionalized form of public service to which a broad cross-section of the public is exposed. It is hypothesized that individuals who serve on juries and reach verdicts become more likely to vote and engage in other forms of civic activity than do those jurors who have inconclusive experiences. It is also predicted that this relationship is mediated by an increase in political efficacy and moderated by other aspects of the jury experience, including the nature of the trial, jury size, and decision rule.

This project undertakes an in-depth examination of the experience of 2,000 jurors in a single jurisdiction. This test employs a panel survey design to test the hypothesized links in the theoretical model. Participants are interviewed at three points in time: when they enter the jury pool, shortly after they serve as jurors, then long after completing their service. This permits baseline measurement of demographics, attitudes and behaviors, self-report data on the experience of jury deliberation, short-term changes in political efficacy and other attitudes, and long-term changes in both efficacy and political behaviors beyond electoral participation. In designing this survey, as well as other activities, the project is assisted by an advisory panel consisting of preeminent jury researchers and civic engagement scholars.

The most far-reaching potential impact of this research is on the degree to which underrepresented groups are included in the legal and political process. Unequal representation in juries may be among the underlying causes of unequal registration and turnout across different social groups, and the study could highlight the importance of enacting legal reforms to make the jury pool and seated juries more representative. By revealing the civic impact of jury service, research could also strengthen the case for maintaining the vitality of the jury as a basic public institution.

Effective start/end date8/1/037/31/05


  • National Science Foundation: $176,494.00


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