Evaluation report available

Majority of the population in favour of citizens' councils

02.07.2024|15:55 Uhr

The Institute for Democracy and Participation Research (IDPF) at the University of Wuppertal has evaluated the German Bundestag's Citizens' Assembly on Nutrition. The result: the committee has fulfilled its task and the participants are very satisfied with the implementation. The population survey also revealed that around 80 per cent of respondents were in favour of the format.

The Citizens' Council on Nutrition in Transition was first set up by the German Bundestag in 2023. 157 people drawn at random discussed topics relating to healthy and affordable nutrition and submitted their recommendations to Parliament in the form of a citizens' report in February 2024.

Evaluation report as a basis for improvement

The scientific evaluation is being carried out under the leadership of the IDPF together with the market research institute Verian. In their first final report, the researchers draw conclusions from participant observations of the Citizens' Assembly meetings, interviews with the participants, the organisers and members of parliament, as well as media and document analyses. "These findings form a fact-based foundation for improving the implementation of a second parliamentary citizens' assembly and the instrument as a whole," says Prof Dr Detlef Sack, head of the IDPF.

The evaluation report now documents that the Citizens' Assembly on Nutrition has provided sufficient answers to the questions formulated by the Bundestag and has therefore successfully and completely fulfilled its task. The implementation of the Citizens' Assembly itself (participation management, moderation, involvement of expertise, quality of dialogue) is also rated positively overall, although potential for improvement is seen in voting procedures and the ratio of digital and face-to-face meetings, among other things.

Population represented as well as possible

The random selection ensured that the Citizens' Assembly represented the population as well as possible. However, the survey of participants showed that fewer people with a migration background were represented in the Citizens' Assembly than in the population as a whole. "We therefore suggest including this aspect in the catalogue of criteria in future," said Nora Freier and Alan Marx from the IDPF.

Many participants also drew a positive balance: in the third survey, 84 per cent fully agreed with the statement that the Citizens' Assembly was a positive personal experience for them overall. A further 12 per cent somewhat agreed. Overall, 86 per cent were satisfied with the Citizens' Assembly's recommendations. However, the inclusion of minority positions at the end of the deliberations was viewed more critically.

High approval rating for the citizens' assembly format

The evaluation of the IDPF also included two representative population surveys. The first survey was conducted promptly (after the start of the evaluation) in November and December 2023. The second survey took place after the recommendations were submitted. At both survey dates, a large majority of four-fifths of the population (79% in November/December 2023 and 81% in February/March 2024) thought it was a very good or good idea to set up the Citizens' Assembly. This positive attitude towards the Citizens' Assembly is shared across all population groups, regardless of age, education, income, place of residence or political trust.

There was also a high level of approval for the continuation of citizens' assemblies. A large majority of four fifths of respondents (80 per cent in November/December 2023 and even slightly more in February/March 2024 at 85 per cent) recommend that the German Bundestag convene further citizens' assemblies on other topics in the future. Only 13 per cent (November/December 2023) and ten per cent (February/March 2024) are against further citizens' assemblies.

Prof Dr Detlef Sack
Institute for Democracy and Participation Research (IDPF)
Phone 0202/439-2428 (secretary's office)
Email detlef.sack[at]uni-wuppertal.de

More participation

Citizens' councils are participatory processes involving 30 to 200 randomly selected citizens who discuss a given topic together in small groups at several meetings and submit their recommendations for action to politicians in the form of a citizens' report. They receive background information from experts covering the entire scientific and political spectrum.

The current German Bundestag is using citizens' councils for the first time to obtain direct feedback from the centre of society on a specific political issue - beyond opinion polls and lobbying. The aim is to bring people into the discussion who would otherwise not be vocal. In the Citizens' Council, people with different life and professional experiences who would otherwise hardly ever meet exchange views.


More info

The full evaluation report can be found on the German Bundestag's website.

A second report dealing with the German Bundestag's handling of the recommendations is due to be published in early 2025.

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