The Jury and Democracy: How Jury Deliberation Promotes Civic Engagement and Political Participation
Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill, and the U.S. Supreme Court have all alleged that jury service promotes civic and political engagement, yet none could prove it. Finally, The Jury and Democracy provides compelling systematic evidence to support this view.
Drawing from in-depth interviews, thousands of juror surveys, and court and voting records from across the United States, the authors show that serving on a jury can trigger changes in how citizens view themselves, their peers, and their government--and can even significantly increase electoral turnout among infrequent voters. Jury service also sparks long-term shifts in media use, political action, and community involvement.
In an era when involved Americans are searching for ways to inspire their fellow citizens, The Jury and Democracy offers a plausible and realistic path for turning passive spectators into active political participants.
A Powerful and Much-Needed Analysis
By Susan Clark, Slow Democracy - February 4, 2013
For community leaders, activists, and scholars who have always been sure (but have struggled to find hard evidence) that citizen deliberation strengthens democracy, Gastil and his colleagues' book offers a jolt of positive energy.
Thanks to the authors' thoroughly researched mix of quantitative and qualitative data regarding juries, we see powerful evidence that when we engage in well-run, empowered jury deliberations, it can change us personally. For instance, deliberating on a jury raises voting rates. And while there are many complex factors involved, the research indicates that elements of jury service often: increase participants' political activity; improve self-confidence in their political abilities; increase their participation in discussions at the local level; increase the likelihood that they'll follow public issues in the news; and more. These are the kind of active, engaged citizens we need to keep our democracy strong.
The premise of this book is very simple, but the research is rich. The authors' main point is that jury duty makes ordinary people more likely to vote - simple enough. But the research reveals the rich emotional and social texture of the act. After deliberating with a jury of peers, a plebian becomes a citizen - no small feat in an increasingly alienated world. The authors discovered that it is the act of deliberation itself that has the effect - one juror said that "we, as a jury, were working towards justice."
By its largely confidential nature, jury duty is extremely difficult to research. The study described in this book is major accomplishment -balanced with both qualitative and quantitative data - that was able to peer behind closed doors. As a long-time avoider of jury-duty, when I finally capitulated, I experienced this process. Now I can envision how the hundreds of thousands of decisions that jurors make collectively form our real laws. One way this... read more
From Jury Duty to Civic Rejuvenation
By mb121wl - February 23, 2011
Although many Americans contribute time and energy to performing tasks that benefit their communities and society, most view their first summons to jury service as a chore and a waste of valuable time. A few go to great lengths to avoid service altogether.
On the face of the matter, this aversion to one of the few constitutional duties Americans have beyond paying taxes and obeying the law generally seems puzzling. After all, haven't most of us seen Twelve Angry Men, Sidney Lumet's 1957 classic film adaptation of the Reginald Rose play? Don't we all root for the hero, Henry Fonda, as he tenaciously sticks to the principle that a defendant should be presumed not guilty until a jury of his peers finds, unanimously, that his guilt has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt? Don't we resonate to his steadfast yet stirring resistance to the other jurors, who are too quick to pass judgment?
Still, it's understandable that one might balk at the prospect of... read more