The “New Public Management” paradigm has significantly influenced managerial thought and practices within the public sector since the 1980s. This approach is based on a commitment to performance measurement together with citizen orientation. A deep evolution of the role of citizens is one of the major consequences of this perspective. Citizens are no more viewed as passive recipients, but as active participants through all the different steps of services planning and provision. Moreover the new paradigm suggests that the relationship between administrators (public managers) and the citizens they serve should be unmediated by elected officials (politicians). Despite an extensive debate on these issues, citizens’ involvement is still far from being systematically applied within local governments. A few studies have recently tried to investigate factors leading to resistance in adopting this new practices and tools. The purpose of this paper is to give a contribution to this stream of research by investigating if a part of this resistance could be connected to the differences and the dualism between public administrators and elected officials’ perspectives about the role and the involvement of citizens. A mail survey was conducted among a sample of Italian town municipalities in May-June 2010. 102 questionnaires were returned (59 from politicians and 43 from public managers). Findings support the existence of a statistically significant difference between public administrators’ and elected officials’ perceptions of citizens’ role in services improvement processes. Managerial implications are drawn from these results.
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