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Examining the Quality of Enclave Deliberation

Cleavages
Democracy
Migration
Political Methodology
Staffan Himmelroos
University of Helsinki
Staffan Himmelroos
University of Helsinki
Kimmo Grönlund
Åbo Akademi
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Abstract

Our paper addresses deliberation among like-minded. This is an issue that has gained traction in recent years as the growth of ICT-facilitated communication and the emergence of online communities has made contacts between people who share similar views and interests easier than ever before. According to Cass Sunstein (2007, 2009), enclave deliberation may have serious repercussions for the communality of modern societies. He argues that when like-minded people interact with each other, their opinions tend to become more extreme. These opinion enclaves often lack counter-arguments as people confirm each other’s views. They tend therefore to make people more confident of their initial views and less willing to accept differing views. These challenges of enclave deliberation are well known in the literature on deliberative democracy, but relatively few empirical studies have looked into how enclaves perform as a deliberative unit. A study by Karpowitz et al. (2009) show that although enclave deliberation is expected to produce lower quality deliberation, due to a more restricted pool of information and arguments, homogeneity may actually increase deliberative quality and equality for less powerful or marginalized individuals. To get a better understanding of the potential perils and promises of enclave deliberation we conducted an experiment on migration policy where participants were randomly assigned into two treatments. Some subjects deliberated in enclaves and some in mixed groups. This design presents a unique opportunity to examine how enclaves manage as a deliberative unit. We are particularly interested in how participants engage in deliberation and if the experimental treatments make a difference for the quality of the deliberative process. Quality is measured through developments in knowledge and opinion, as well as, equality of participation.