Beyond polarization and selective trust – a Citizens’ Jury as a trusted source of information

In this article, we examine whether a deliberative mini-public can provide a trusted source of information in the context of a polarized referendum. Political polarization gives rise to selective distrust of those on the ‘other side’. The Citizens’ Jury on Referendum Options in Korsholm, Finland, was organized in conjunction with a polarized referendum on a municipal merger. Our analysis is based on a field experiment measuring the effects of reading the jury’s statement. We find that trust in all public actors was selective, that is, dependent on views on the merger, the Citizens’ Jury being the only exception. Overall, reading the jury’s statement increased trust in all public actors, including those perceived as being on the ‘other side’. With some caveats, our findings suggest that mini-publics can alleviate selective distrust in polarized contexts.

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