Peter John

Peter John
King's College London | KCL · Department of Political Economy

DPhil

About

319
Publications
64,655
Reads
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8,640
Citations
Citations since 2017
68 Research Items
4181 Citations
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Introduction
I am still working on behavioural public policy and randomised interventions, engaged in projects on citizenship and volunteering, vaccinations, and voter registration. With Sanchyan Banerjee, I have been developing a new tool of behavioual public poliicy, nudge+, incorporating reflection into nudge
Additional affiliations
September 2011 - January 2018
University College London
Position
  • Professor
September 2004 - September 2011
The University of Manchester
Position
  • Hallsworth Chair of Governance
January 2002 - December 2004

Publications

Publications (319)
Article
Full-text available
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, text messages have become an increasingly attractive tool of voter registration. At the same time, in countries without automated registration, advocacy organisations play a more prominent role in supplementing the efforts of official bodies in registering voters. However, most available, robust evidence on whe...
Preprint
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, text messages have become an increasingly attractive tool of voter registration. At the same time, in countries without automated registration, advocacy organisations play a more prominent role in supplementing the efforts of official bodies in registering voters. However, most available, robust evidence on whe...
Article
Full-text available
What are the electoral consequences of urban riots? We argue that riots highlight the economic and social problems suffered by those who participate, inducing potential electoral allies to mobilize. These allies can then punish local incumbents at the ballot box. We test this hypothesis with fine-grained geographic data that capture how exposure to...
Preprint
Full-text available
Democratic governments vary in the extent to which they encourage citizens to reflect on the policies that they enact. This trade-off is particularly acute for behavioral nudges like setting default choices, which are often not made explicit to citizens. Using data from an online survey experiment administered to 24,303 respondents in the G7, this...
Technical Report
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Acknowledgements The authors are grateful to the British Academy for this opportunity and generous funding, with particular thanks to Flora Langley and Hugo Clarke for their guidance throughout the project. The authors appreciate the comments and suggestions of an anonymous peer reviewer on earlier work.
Article
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Editor’s note. In this roundtable, the contributors discuss the role of institutions (or lack thereof) in behavioral public administration (BPA). In a multidisciplinary discourse, the contributors touch on the many tensions that exist between institutional and behavioral perspectives of public administration. This roundtable is intended to spark ad...
Preprint
Full-text available
Nudges have been increasingly deployed to deliver climate policies in the last decade. Recent evidence shows nudges are hard to scale–up. So can we use nudges more effectively, or should we rely on other tools of behaviour change? We argue that reflective strategies can enhance nudges by encouraging agency and ownership in citizens. We test this by...
Article
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An extensive debate has emerged in recent years about the relative merits of behavioral policy instruments (nudges) aimed at changing individual behavior without coercion. In this article, we examine public support for non‐deliberative nudges and deliberative nudges and compare them to attitudes toward top‐down regulation and free choice/libertaria...
Article
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This introduction sets out the context for this symposium, which is the discontent expressed by UK MPs and the Speaker of the House of Commons in March 2021 about a research project using e-mails from fictitious constituents to audit the responsiveness of legislators to constituent emails. The article reviews the research literature on experiments...
Book
British Politics provides an introduction to British politics with an emphasis on political science to analyse the fundamental features of British politics, and the key changes post-Brexit. Part A looks at constitutional and institutional foundations of the subject. Chapters in this part look at leadership and debating politics and law creation. Th...
Chapter
This chapter focuses on citizen attitudes, values, cultures, and behaviours, which underpin the British political system. Particularly important is voting for elected representatives, whether MPs, Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), Members of the Senedd (MSs), Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLAs), directly elected mayors, police...
Chapter
This chapter explores the central government departments, executive agencies, and other public bureaucracies in operation in the UK today, such as those in local and territorial governments. These bodies help make and implement public policies and run public services. The chapter reviews more general work on bureaucracy and public administration, a...
Chapter
This chapter assesses what politicians and members of political parties really care about: getting into office on the back of a successful election campaign. Rather than the general determinants of voting outlined in the previous chapter, this is about the choices voters and parties face within a particular system, so they can organize themselves t...
Chapter
This chapter discusses what makes British politics distinctive and recognizable: its parliamentary democracy, uncodified constitution, and pattern of party government. It begins by outlining some recent events that have made British or UK politics so fascinating and controversial. The chapter then describes the political system, particularly the in...
Chapter
This chapter describes interest, pressure, or advocacy groups, which organize separately from political parties, seeking to influence public opinion and public policy. It discusses the nature of these groups and what they do, before reviewing the debate on the power of interest groups, in particular whether business has a privileged position. Studi...
Chapter
This concluding chapter presents a summary of the common themes and key points about British politics, which help make sense of current events, such as whether turbulence and instability now characterize British politics, and whether democracy can work well in these conditions. It provides a table containing summaries of each chapter, which relate...
Chapter
This chapter examines the general issue of leadership in the British political system and the stresses and strains of this task, examining the role of the prime minister. As well as being leader of the largest party in the House of Commons, able to command a majority, and potentially able to get government business through Parliament and into law,...
Article
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Successful responses to the coronavirus pandemic require those without COVID-19 and asymptomatic individuals to comply with a range of government guidelines. As nudges have been widely found to be effective at increasing compliance to prosocial behaviours in many contexts, how good are they for the COVID policy toolkit? In particular, is more of a...
Article
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Recent election surprises, regime changes, and political shocks indicate that political agendas have become more fast-moving and volatile. The ability to measure the complex dynamics of agenda change and capture the nature and extent of volatility in political systems is therefore more crucial than ever before. This study proposes a definition and...
Article
Background: Behavioural public policies, known as nudges, suffer from lack of citizen consent and involvement, which has led to an argument for more reflective nudges, known as ‘nudge plus’. Aims and objectives: How can more citizen reflection be introduced in a way that is not itself top-down and paternalist in spite of good intentions? How might...
Article
Full-text available
Nudge plus is a modification of the toolkit of behavioral public policy. It incorporates an element of reflection – the plus – into the delivery of a nudge, either blended in or made proximate. Nudge plus builds on recent work combining heuristics and deliberation. It may be used to design prosocial interventions that help preserve the autonomy of...
Article
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Dissatisfied users of public services may choose to voice or exit. But when does voice emerge? To answer this question, we deploy Hirschman's (1970) exit, voice, and loyalty (EVL) model. We set out an 'available alternatives' hypothesisincreasing the number of exit options reduces voicein contrast to an 'effective voice' hypothesis where voice is...
Article
Local authorities in Great Britain are required to ensure that their electoral registers are as accurate and complete as possible. To this end, Household Enquiry Forms (HEFs) are mailed to all properties annually to collect updated details from residents, and any eligible unregistered residents will subsequently be invited to register to vote. Unfo...
Article
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Al-Ubaydli et al. set out a valuable prospectus, but they operate with too simple a view of the policymaking process. Politicians and bureaucrats have additional objectives to that of maximizing human welfare: the former wish to endorse policies that get them re-elected; the latter need to manage complex bureaucracies and advance their careers. Bot...
Article
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Behavioural public policy interventions have been implemented across the world, targeting citizens, professionals, politicians and policymakers. This article examines poor quality reporting of interventions and methods in some behavioural public policy research. We undertake a review of existing reporting standards to assess their suitability for t...
Article
Randomized controlled trials carried out in the field have not been deployed in the study of the comparative policy process. Recent field experiments in political science and public administration offer a model to follow with their insights into the classic topics of public policy, such as biases of decision-makers and responsiveness to citizen dem...
Article
Loss aversion is a foundational bias and is a natural choice for interventions encouraging compliance during COVID-19. We compare the effectiveness of loss and gain messages and find no difference in the intention to comply with guidance or lockdown beliefs.
Article
Citizens respond to information about democracy according to whether they are electoral winners or losers. This difference occurs both at the national and constituency level. Democratic interventions that seek to promote accountability and transparency might therefore impact citizens differentially depending on the political party that people suppo...
Article
Research on pro-social behaviours has mainly concentrated on individually-tailored interventions, such as Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaigns, rather than collective arenas where information and messages are experienced jointly. Citizenship ceremonies, in which new UK citizens are required to participate, provide a timely and unique opportunity to pr...
Article
Full-text available
We outline a modified version of behaviour change called nudge plus, which incorporates an element of reflection as part of the delivery of a nudge. Nudge plus builds on recent work advocating educative nudges and boosts. Its argument turns on seminal work on dual systems that presents a more subtle relationship between fast and slow thinking than...
Article
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Recent years have seen a growth in the use of social norm messages by local and national governments across the world. These messages have primarily been used to induce desired behaviors among the non-compliant minority by pointing to the compliance of the majority. As well as being of considerable theoretical interest, these messages have a high l...
Chapter
This chapter argues that social media drives change by allowing new “tiny acts” of political participation in support of a social or political cause, such as sharing, liking, viewing, or following. While most of these “microdonations” of time and effort rapidly decay, they occasionally and unpredictably scale up to massive support for a political o...
Article
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Nudge and behavioural public policy tools have won support from governments across the world for improving the effectiveness of public interventions. Yet nudge still attracts strong criticisms for promoting paternalism and manipulation as legitimate government actions. To move beyond this divide, this paper offers a comprehensive reorientation, whi...
Article
Research on pro-social behaviours has mainly concentrated on individually-tailored interventions, such as Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaigns, rather than collective arenas where information and messages are experienced jointly. Citizenship ceremonies, in which new UK citizens are required to participate, provide a timely and unique opportunity to pr...
Cover Page
Full-text available
Edited by leading scholars with contributions from over thirty renowned experts this is the leading Handbook on policy, processes and real world governing.'-Klaus Schubert, University of Muenster, Germany 'This is a highly valuable and timely book, which rediscovers and rethinks the relationship between policy processes, policy analysis (expertise...
Article
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Transparency and responsiveness are core values of democratic governments, yet do Freedom of Information Laws - one of the legal basis for such values - actually help to increase these values? This paper reports a replication of a field experiment testing for the responsiveness of public authorities by Worthy et al (2016) in the United Kingdom. We...
Preprint
Full-text available
Recent election surprises and regime changes have left the impression that politics has become more fast-moving and unstable. While modern politics does seem more volatile, there is little systematic evidence to support this claim. This paper seeks to address this gap in knowledge by reporting data over the last seventy years using public opinion p...
Article
Endorsement is used by charitable organizations to stimulate public support, including monetary donations. This article reports a field experiment that examined the effect of leader and peer endorsement on student volunteering. The experiment was conducted with over 100,000 students from five UK universities and compared the effect on volunteering...
Article
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Political behaviour increasingly takes place on digital platforms, where people are presented with a range of social information—real-time feedback about the behaviour of peers and reference groups—which can stimulate (or depress) participation. This social information is hypothesized to impact the distribution of political activity, stimulating pa...
Article
Interventions aimed at increasing the supply and representativeness of elected officials range from facilitative to the formally authorised. This paper reports on a field experiment aimed at testing the effect of facilitative approaches at the local level based on a collaboration between parish councils and the research team. We randomly allocated...
Article
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Studies of decision-making in public policy may be conceived as three distinct ages of theory building and testing. The first was the classic period of studies of decision-making and rationality; the second was the age of synthesis when theories of decision-making were blended into accounts of agenda setting. The third—which is starting to take sha...
Article
Full-text available
Behavioral insights or nudges have yielded great benefits for today’s public administrators by improving the quality of official messages and increasing revenue flows. In the absence of a large number of studies suitable for meta-analysis, less is known about the external validity of these interventions, their range of impact, and the exact matchin...
Book
This book addresses the wave of innovation and reforms that has been called the nudge or behavioural public policy agenda, which has emerged in many countries since the mid-2000s. Nudge involves developing behavioural insights to solve complex policy problems, such as unemployment, obesity and the environment, as well as improving the delivery of p...
Article
Research indicates that providing social information about other people’s charitable donations can increase individual contributions. However, the effects of social information on volunteering time are underexplored. In this field experiment, we measure the effects of different levels of feedback about other people’s time contributions (very high,...
Article
Full-text available
This paper assesses how Brexit affects theories of British politics. Brexit reveals the impact of political turbulence on conventional party politics and entails large changes to British institutions and public policies from leaving the EU. The paper sets out nine extant theories of British politics and assesses whether they become more or less imp...
Chapter
Full-text available
Interest in experimental research in public management is on the rise, yet the field still lacks a broad understanding of its role in producing substantive findings and theoretical advances. Written by a team of leading international researchers, this book sets out the advantages of experiments in public management and showcases their rapidly devel...
Chapter
Interest in experimental research in public management is on the rise, yet the field still lacks a broad understanding of its role in producing substantive findings and theoretical advances. Written by a team of leading international researchers, this book sets out the advantages of experiments in public management and showcases their rapidly devel...
Article
How effective are systems of transparency, such as Freedom of Information (FOI) requests? The ambitious aims of FOI laws hinge on whether requests produce the desired information for the citizens or groups that use them. The question is whether such legally mandated requests work better than more informal mechanisms. Despite the high hopes of advoc...
Article
Full-text available
The use of social norms has become the tool of choice for behaviourally informed interventions. However, it is still not clear for what type of contexts and populations is this intervention effective. This randomised controlled trial with 4298 students tests the applicability of social norms to improve the late payment of university tuition fees. W...
Article
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This Introduction sets out the basic content and structure of Keith Dowding’s The Philosophy and Methods of Political Science. It introduces the rationale for the symposium and explains the wide range of responses that were sought. The articles that follow are briefly introduced along with the elements of Dowding’s response.
Article
Full-text available
Tests of behavioral insights have become increasingly more common, and have been deployed by UK government and agencies. Typically, these field experiments aim to change individual-level behaviors. The current article tests the potential of behavioral insights for changing group-level behavior. This article reports the results of a field experiment...
Article
In recent years, public agencies have frequently deployed behavioural insights to generate benefits for society, through encouraging citizens to comply with official requests, and more generally encouraging them to cooperate with public agencies to help deliver outcomes of collective benefit. In parallel, there has been a large increase in the amou...
Article
Public authorities want to ensure that more citizens transact online; but they also face a minority for whom paper and face-to-face interactions are still preferred or needed. When citizens depend on public services, a nudge might be the best way to encourage them to shift channels. This approach is especially important when there is still a digita...
Book
Field experiments -- randomized controlled trials -- have become ever more popular in political science, as well as in other disciplines, such as economics, social policy and development. Policy-makers have also increasingly used randomization to evaluate public policies, designing trials of tax reminders, welfare policies and international aid pro...
Chapter
Conceptualizing and measuring choice is problematic both in theory and in practice. Measuring by counting the alternatives seems counterintuitive, as a smaller set of better or more diverse alternatives seems to provide more choice than one that is simply larger. However, concentrating upon better alternatives leads to choice being defined by welfa...
Article
In contrast to non-partisan Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaigns, political parties do not aim to increase turnout across the board. Instead, their principal goal is to affect the outcome of an election in their favor. To find out how they realize this aim, we carried out a randomized field experiment to evaluate the effect of campaign visits and leaf...
Article
How effective are systems of transparency, such as Freedom of Information (FOI) requests? The ambitious aims of FOI laws hinge on whether requests produce the desired information for the citizens or groups that use them. The question is whether such legally mandated requests work better than more informal mechanisms. Despite the high hopes of advoc...
Chapter
The article reviews the contribution of Hirschman’s Exit, Voice and Loyalty (EVL) to research in political science. The argument is the framework of exit and voice offers greater understanding of a range trade-offs that exist in politics, in particular over collective action and citizen responses to dissatisfaction, which have implications for inst...
Chapter
The author reflects on the growing use of and acclaim for RCTs as a method for policy discovery. The chapter outlines the social science thinking behind the tool, provide some examples of its use and then discuss its strengths and weaknesses.
Chapter
This valuable book offers a distinct and critical showcase of emerging forms of discovery for policy-making, drawing on the insights of some of the world’s leading authorities in public policy analysis.
Chapter
This chapter traces the rise of behavioral policy from the works of behavioral economists in the 1960s to the recent official interest in units designed to improve public policies. It argues that behavioral economics does not pose a threat to mainstream economics; moreover, policy-makers find it helpful in solving practical problems using randomize...
Article
Why do some politicians acquire more posts and achieve faster career progression, while others do not? We argue that it is the opportunity for members of parliament (MPs) to develop and demonstrate their effectiveness as lawmakers and politicians that helps them develop political careers. By leveraging a natural experiment in the United Kingdom whe...
Article
The paper reviews the contribution of Hirschman’s Exit, Voice, and Loyalty (EVL) to research in political science. The argument is the framework of exit and voice offers greater understanding of a range trade-offs that exist in politics, in particular over collective action and citizen responses to dissatisfaction, which have implications for insti...
Article
Full-text available
This paper demonstrates how party leaders (frontbenchers) and backbenchers use their access to UK Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) to represent the policy agenda. Building on comparative research on parliamentary questions and agenda-setting as well as taking account of the particular context of PMQs, we argue that party leaders and followers draw...
Article
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This collection of contributions uses the 21nd anniversary of the publication of Allan Cochrane’s Whatever Happened to Local Government? (1993) to reflect on the state of contemporary English local government, and in the process assess the book’s intellectual legacy.
Article
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Does an incentive-in the form of a lottery-increase voter registration, particularly among poorer members of society? In the summer of 2012, two groups of 20,000 randomly selected households from a London Borough were informed that they would be placed into a prize draw if they registered to vote by 28 September 2012. One group was offered £5000 an...
Article
Career progression is a classic topic in political science, but how researchers have investigated it has remained static for decades, both empirically and methodologically. This paper goes beyond the focus on the access to legislatures, common to the contemporary literature, and investigates what happens inside parliaments. In this vein, we deploy...
Article
This paper sets out the political and organisational context for the adoption of behaviour change polices, noting how nudge ideas take their place within the standard operating procedures of bureaucracies and in the public arena of debate and advocacy. It suggests that accounts of the emergence of psychological governance need to take account of th...
Article
In this paper, the development of field of public policy is represented as three distinct ages of theory building and testing. The first was the classic period of studies of decision-making and rationality; the second was an age of synthesis when theories of decision-making were blended into accounts of agenda setting; and the third — which is star...
Article
Full-text available
This article is about the persistence and resilience of the form of local government that emerged in England in the nineteenth century and took shape in the twentieth century. English local government has adapted to successive reorganisations and changes to its functions; it has survived centralisation, privatisation, the imposition of quangos, reg...
Article
Full-text available
Social information is particularly prominent in digital settings where the design of platforms can more easily give real-time information about the behaviour of peers and reference groups and thereby stimulate political activity. Changes to these platforms can generate natural experiments allowing an assessment of the impact of changes in social in...
Chapter
Introduction One of the most important advances in the study of public policy – occurring over the lifetime of the Policy & Politics journal – is the categorisation of the tools of government into a small number of discrete types. Salamon and Lund (1989, 4) sum up what underlies the concept: ‘the notion that the multitude of government programmes a...
Article
In recent years the nature of policy and politics has witnessed significant transformations. These have challenged perceptions about the ways in which policy is studied, designed, delivered and appraised. This book -the first in the New Perspectives in Policy and Politics series – brings together world-leading scholars to reflect on the implication...
Article
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What factors explain the success of the UK Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insights Team? To answer this question, this article applies insights from organizational theory, particularly accounts of change agents. Change agents are able—with senior sponsorship—to foster innovation by determination and skill: they win allies and circumvent more traditio...
Article
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The presence of heterogeneity in treatment effects can create problems for researchers employing a narrow experimental pool in their research. In particular it is often questioned whether the results of a particular experiment can be extrapolated outside the specific location of the study. In this article, we use a population-based field experiment...
Article
Full-text available
IRandomised controlled trials have a number of advantages for policy-makers in testing out interventions and improving standard administrative procedures. The use of a more robust form of evidence can challenge old ways of doing business and can lead to the redesign of existing administrative systems. Moreover, the greater use of experiments can se...
Article
Full-text available
Albert Hirschman makes an important contribution to the study of public services with his book Exit, Voice, and Loyalty (197023. Hirschman, A. O. 1970. Exit, Voice, and Loyalty Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations and States. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.View all references). Hirschman shows that exit and voice are the two main respo...

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