Who Do the People Want to Govern?

John R. Hibbing*, Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, Matthew V. Hibbing, David Fortunato

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Relative to the well-developed theory and extensive survey batteries on people’s preferences for substantive policy solutions, scholarly understanding of people’s preferences for the mechanisms by which policies should be adopted is disappointing. Theory rarely goes beyond the assumption that people would prefer to rule themselves rather than leave decisions up to elites and measurement rests largely on four items that are not up to the task. In this article, we seek to provide a firmer footing for “process” research by 1) offering an alternative theory holding that people actually want elites to continue to make important political decisions but want them to do so only after acquiring a deep appreciation for the real-world problems facing regular people, and 2) developing and testing a battery of over 50 survey items, appropriate for cross-national research, that extend understanding of how the people want political decisions to be made.
Original languageEnglish
JournalParty Politics
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)3-15
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Published online: October 15, 2021.


  • Governmental processes
  • Direct democracy
  • Stealth democracy
  • Popular desires

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