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Deliberation Within and Across Enclaves – Knowledge and Opinion Change in an Experiment

Democracy
Political Psychology
Knowledge
Kaisa Herne
Tampere University
Kaisa Herne
Tampere University
Maija Setälä
University of Turku
Kimmo Grönlund
Åbo Akademi
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Abstract

Democratic deliberation entails an inclusion of different viewpoints in the process of exchanging arguments. In fact, political disagreement is often regarded as the reason why democratic deliberation is needed in the first place. The term enclave deliberation was first introduced by Cass Sunstein (2002), and it is increasingly used to refer to discussion among like-minded people where disagreement is supposedly less frequent and severe. The occurrence of group polarization among like-minded people has been recorded in social psychological experiments. Group polarization refers to a phenomenon of like-minded people reinforcing each other’s views and leading to a more extreme position for a group as a result of this. The lack of opposing arguments is also believed to lead to an amplification of cognitive errors. A population based experiment with a pre-test post-test design was conducted in order to test whether deliberative discussion norms interfere with the mechanisms of group polarization and amplification of errors. Having surveyed people’s opinions on immigration, permissive and restrictive people were identified and selected to the experiment. We manipulated the group composition in order to compare standard deliberative groups where the participants had disagreeing views with two kinds of like-minded groups, consisting of people who wanted more immigration and people who wanted to restrict immigration. In other words, deliberation in the standard setting of disagreement was compared to deliberation in like-minded groups. Participants were stratified to enclaves but randomly assigned to like-minded or heterogeneous groups. Contrary to Sunstein’s thesis group polarization or amplification of cognitive errors were not observed in the experiment. The results suggest that deliberative rules alleviate these tendencies. Further, it was those participants that were critical of immigration that became more tolerant independent of whether they deliberated in a like-minded or in a heterogeneous group. The level of knowledge was increased in all groups.