Edana Beauvais and André Bächtiger (2016). Taking the Goals of Deliberation Seriously: A Differentiated View on Equality and Equity in Deliberative Designs and Processes. Forthcoming Journal of Public Deliberation.
Deliberation must be immunized against coercive power by a baseline of equality. But what does the requirement of equality mean, in practice, for organizers designing deliberative events and forums? This question is complicated by the fact that equality is fundamentally about two—at times contradictory—values. On the one hand, the value of universal moral equality, which requires abstracting from social circumstances. On the other hand, the value of equity, which requires attending to social circumstances. Deliberative institutions vary in their capacity to promote one value over the other, or in their capacity to compromise between the two. We argue that negotiating between these twin values should be done with reference to the different goals of the deliberative process (generating legitimate decisions, producing more informed opinions, promoting mutual respect, enabling accommodation, and so on), and with an eye to the trade-offs that achieving particular goals might require. Focusing on civic forums, we review existing research related to three important aspects of design—participant recruitment, the nature of the interaction, and decision-making—and discuss how different designs impact deliberation’s different normative goals. We argue against a totalizing view of deliberation, where unitary institutions try to achieve all of deliberation’s goals at once, and instead discuss how the trade-offs between deliberation’s different functions can be resolved at the system level. We conclude by arguing that practitioners should not try to realize all deliberative goals—including equality and equity—at once, but rather should prioritize the goals they want to achieve, and select institutional rules and practices that optimally achieve these goals.
Marina Lindell, André Bächtiger, Kimmo Grönlund, Kaisa Herne, Maija Setälä, and Dominik Wyss (2016). What drives the Polarization and Moderation of Opinions? Evidence from a Finnish Citizen Deliberation Experiment on Immigration. Forthcoming European Journal of Political Research.http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1475-6765.12162/abstract
In the study of deliberation, a largely under-explored area is why some participants polarise their opinion after deliberation and why others moderate them. Opinion polarisation is usually considered a suspicious outcome of deliberation, while moderation is seen as a desirable one. This article takes issue with this view. Results from a Finnish deliberative experiment on immigration show that polarisers and moderators were not different in socioeconomic, cognitive or affective profiles. Moreover, both polarisation and moderation can entail deliberatively desired pathways: in the experiment, both polarisers and moderators learned during deliberation, levels of empathy were fairly high on both sides, and group pressures barely mattered. Finally, the low physical presence of immigrants in some discussion groups was associated with polarisation in the anti-immigrant direction, bolstering longstanding claims regarding the importance of presence for democratic politics.
Marlène Gerber, André Bächtiger, Susumu Shikano, Simon Reber and Samuel Rohr (2016). Deliberative Abilities and Influence in a Transnational Deliberative Poll (EuroPolis). Forthcoming British Journal of Political Science.
This article investigates the deliberative abilities of ordinary citizens in the context of ‘EuroPolis’, a transnational deliberative poll. Drawing upon a philosophically grounded instrument, an updated version of the Discourse Quality Index (DQI), it explores how capable European citizens are of meeting deliberative ideals; whether socio-economic, cultural and psychological biases affect the ability to deliberate; and whether opinion change results from the exchange of arguments. On the positive side, EuroPolis shows that the ideal deliberator scoring high on all deliberative standards does actually exist, and that participants change their opinions more often when rational justification is used in the discussions. On the negative side, deliberative abilities are unequally distributed: in particular, working-class members are less likely to contribute to a high standard of deliberation.
Lucio Baccaro, André Bächtiger, and Marion Deville (2016). Small Differences That Matter. The Impact of Discussion Modalities on Deliberative Outcomes. British Journal of Political Science 45, 551-566. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0007123414000167
An experiment on the extension of the political rights of foreigners in the Swiss city of Geneva used three different procedural ways to structure deliberation: participants take positions at the outset, do not take positions, and reflect first. Most opinion change occurred when participants did not have to take a position at the outset. However, no learning effects were recorded, the deliberative quality was poor and group influence had the greatest impact. When participants had to take a position at the outset, opinion change and group influence were least, but there was significant learning, and the deliberative quality was better. These results indicate a potential trade-off between opinion change – which many scholars equate with deliberative success – and good procedural deliberative quality.
Dominik Wyss, Simon Beste, and André Bächtiger (2015). A Decline in the Quality of Debate? The Evolution of Cognitive Complexity in Swiss Parliamentary Debates on Immigration (1968-2014). Swiss Political Science Review 21, 636-653. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/spsr.12179/full
This article explores the evolution of debate quality in the Swiss parliament. Focusing on immigration debates, we employ a psychological construct—cognitive complexity (CC)—which captures both epistemic and accommodative dimensions of political argumentation. We find a decrease in CC in parliamentary immigration debates over time, but this decrease was driven by the rise of the SVP (Swiss People's Party). However, there was almost no “spillover” of this new communication style to other parties. Moreover, we also find a constant difference between the Ständerat and the Nationalrat, with the former scoring higher on CC and thus asserting its role as a “chambre de réflexion” in immigration debates. Our diachronic focus on the quality of political debate takes a novel perspective on the dynamics of consensus democracy as well as on elite political culture. While our results indicate that the rise of the SVP has transformed the traditional consensual and deliberative pattern of Swiss policy-making style into one which is geared towards less accommodation and a higher simplicity of political talk, there is still remarkable resilience against this new style of political interaction.
Kimmo Grönlund, André Bächtiger, and Maija Setäla (eds., 2014) Deliberative Minipublics – Involving Citizens in the Democratic Process. Colchester: ECPR Press.
This book offers systematic and novel accounts of the booming phenomenon of deliberative mini-publics. Bringing together leading scholars in the field, it focuses on preconditions, processes, and outcomes of deliberative mini-publics while simultaneously providing a critical assessment of current mini-public designs and practices.
Read NicoleCurato's review of "Deliberative Mini-Publics" in Perspectives on Politics: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1537592716002164