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European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies

Italian citizens provide policy recommendations in successful 'mini-public'

On 9 and 23 September 2023, the EUI hosted two successful ‘mini-public’ events with Italian citizens, who provided their views on the influence of fake news on trust in politics and proposed recommendations for future policy-making initiatives.

10 October 2023 | Event

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The goal of the events, which were organised in the framework of the REGROUP project, was to gain insight into the opinion of a selected group of citizens about the influence of fake news on trust in politics, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic. A group of Italian citizens, guided by experts and EUI academics, actively provided their views on the topic and proposed recommendations for future policy-making initiatives.

‘Mini-publics’ is a concept introduced by Robert Dahl and can be defined as “an assembly of citizens, demographically representative of the larger population, brought together to learn and deliberate on a topic in order to inform public opinion and decision-making”. The events hosted by EUI are part of a series of national mini-publics in France, the Netherlands, Germany and Poland. In 2024, the European Policy Centre, a partner in the project, will organise a transnational mini-public in Brussels.

When asked about their feedback from the events, one participant shared the following: “A very immersive experience! I was given the opportunity to address very important topics, such as the pandemic, trust in institutions, and more, with people from different generations. This experience has taught me a lot, and I will definitely apply what we have learned together to other situations.” Other participants said that while the assembly was not very big, they committed themselves to “providing the most useful advice to the community because the topic of accurate information is essential”. For others, the event was “an insightful training experience that … should be repeated, at the institutional level, on a variety of topics”.

Participants were also asked which policy recommendation discussed during the two days made the biggest impression on them. One of the responses was as follows: “The way to understand how to curb the world of fake news. In particular, the limits between the freedom of expression and the information that harms our society, and the ideas that have come up on how to solve this dilemma - starting from education, public awareness, and the education that must accompany the citizen at the institutional level. Finally, how to bring the citizen back to institutions through a process of 'trust-building'.” Another member of the assembly said that trust in institutions is a topic that is particularly important to them and “we addressed it in a very constructive way”. Finally, an important aspect underlined by participants was “promoting the critical thinking of citizens and participation in active citizenship”.

Mini-publics are key to REGROUP research, as it explores the lived experiences of citizens, as well as to empower citizens in EU policymaking for more democratic and resilient crisis governance. The results of the project will be presented to the European Commission as advice on what future governments should do against disinformation during times of crisis. The project will also support further research into the consequences of disinformation.

REGROUP is a Horizon Europe research project part of the European Governance and Politics Programme portfolio, led by the programme’s director professor Daniele Caramani. The research led by the EGGP team focuses on old and new cleavages and aims to map and analyse the social and geographical conflict lines generated in Europe by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last update: 10 October 2023

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