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Deliberation and Net Attitude Change

Citizenship
Democracy
European Politics
Political Participation
Political Psychology
Knowledge
Kyung Joon Han
The University of Tennessee
Robert Luskin
Sciences Po Paris
James Fishkin
Stanford University

Abstract

Few would doubt that deliberation, defined roughly as serious, informative, civil discussion changes some individual-level opinions and vote intentions. Gross change—by individuals, in one direction or the other—figures to be appreciable. But if about as many people change about as much in each direction, the net change may still be nil. And from the standpoint of democracy it is the net change that is the more important. It has some normative value for everyone to reach his or her own considered or authentic preferences. But if the polls and election results still read exactly the same, it makes no difference policy or election outcomes, nor to democracy as a decision-making process. This paper reviews the net change in policy attitudes and electoral preferences across 22 Deliberative Polls around the world, on a variety of issues. We first show that statistically significant net change is far more rule than exception but that it varies across issues and settings. We then estimate a model aimed at explaining the magnitude of net change, in terms of the location (country), salience of the issue, mode (face-to-face versus online), heterogeneity of the sample, and other factors.