Authors: Cary Coglianese
Center for Business and Government, John F. Kennedy School of Government
This chapter raises caution about using participant satisfaction, or other measures based on participants' attitudes and opinions, in evaluating dispute resolution and public participation in regulatory policymaking. The author first elaborates on the use of satisfaction as a policy evaluation criterion and illustrate the role it has come to play in research evaluating public participation in regulatory policy making, most particularly in the area of environmental and natural resources policy. He then draws out two conceptual limitations on the use of participant satisfaction, namely that (a) satisfaction does not necessarily equate with good public policy, and (b) participant satisfaction is at best an incomplete measure because it excludes those who do not participate. Finally, he details a series of problems in applying, measuring, and interpreting participant satisfaction that make it a problematic metric for evaluating public participation in regulatory processes. In light of the conceptual and measurement problems with relying on satisfaction, evaluation researchers should resist relying on participant surveys to evaluate public participation techniques, and instead, should focus attention directly on the effectiveness, efficiency, and equity of the decisions that result from different forms of public participation.
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