Disagreement and Deliberation: Evidence from Three Deliberative Mini-Publics

Grönlund, Kimmo; Herne, Kaisa; Strandberg, Kim & Söderlund, Peter (2021): Disagreement and Deliberation: Evidence from Three Deliberative Mini-Publics. Political Behavior.

This article is based on three experiments in citizen deliberation. We ask whether disagreement at group level as well as at individual level influence participants’ experiences of deliberation. In all three experiments, participants discussed in small groups and answered surveys before and after deliberations. The experiments were population-based with random selection. The topic of the first deliberation was nuclear power, the second dealt with immigration, and the third concerned policies for a language spoken by a national minority.

The degree of group level disagreement was subject to experimental manipulation. In the first experiment, all the participants discussed in groups with mixed opinions. In the second experiment, participants were first categorized according to their baseline views, and then randomly allocated into either mixed or like-minded groups. In the third experiment, everyone discussed in like-minded groups. A trained facilitator moderated all small group discussions in the first two experiments. In the language experiment, the participants were randomly assigned into two treatments: groups with both moderation and deliberative norms, and ‘placebo’ groups. Our dependent variables consist of participants’ self-reported experiences of being heard in the discussion, and their feelings of mutual respect.

The results show that all participants—regardless of group level disagreement—tend to be satisfied with deliberation. The only exception is the first experiment, where disagreement decreased process satisfaction slightly. At the individual level, participants’ deviation from the group mean had almost no effect.


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