Deliberative Mini-publics Facilitating Voter Knowledge and Judgement: Experience from a Finnish Local Referendum

This article examines the use of a Citizens’ Jury as a source of voter information in the context of a government-initiated (top-down) referendum. Several studies show the capacity of the Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) to enhance voters’ knowledge and capacity of judgement in ballot initiative processes. However, similar procedures have not been tested outside the U.S.A. or in the context of government-initiated referendums. Our case is a Citizens’ Jury on Referendum Options organised in the municipality of Korsholm (Finland) in 2019. Even though the referendum concerned a contested municipal merger, we find that jury’s participants were nonetheless satisfied with the deliberative process and found it impartial. A large majority of voters in Korsholm had read the statement by the jury and thought it was a useful and trustworthy source of information. Based on a field experiment, we find that reading the statement increased trust in the jury, factual knowledge, issue efficacy and perspective-taking.

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