Do We All Mean the Same when We Talk about Participation? Perspectives of Local Officials, Politicians and Social Activists Revealed through Q-methodology


The article analyses and compares the thinking on citizen participation of elected and non-elected officials, as well as social activists of the Spanish cities of Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastián and Lleida. The research is based on Q methodology, whose combination of quantitative and qualitative elements can generate systematic, rigorous and quantifiable evidence, without sacrificing the complexity and richness of language. The results reveal three distinct perspectives on participation (integral, regenerative and distrustful), that differ notably in their appreciation of political institutions and social organizations. However, results also point to the existence of a core of consensus beliefs, which opens the door to building more legitimate and effective participatory institutions.