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The process is the reality : perceptions of procedural fairness and participatory democracy

Carman, C.J. (2010) The process is the reality : perceptions of procedural fairness and participatory democracy. Political Studies, 58 (4). pp. 731-751. ISSN 0032-3217

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To (re)connect and (re-)engage citizens with their governing institutions, many advanced industrial democracies have adopted innovative reforms designed to 'transform' the way citizens interact with public institutions. This article assesses the extent to which the Scottish Parliament's petitioning system, a reform designed to connect the Scottish public with its parliament, influences broader trust in the political system. Using structural equations to model data from a survey of Scottish Parliament petitioners, the article finds that process evaluations far exceed outcome evaluations in influencing petitioner trust in political institutions. Hence simply adopting reforms that allow for 'civic engagement' is not enough to improve public support for the political system. Great care must be taken in adopting transformative reforms to ensure that those members of the public who do choose to 'engage' with political institutions see procedures as fair and politically neutral.