Deliberation in Direct Democracy

This project tests the counterfactual how Swiss citizens would think and vote about a contested issue in direct democracy if the discussion were based on the merits of the different positions rather than on a purely competitive and rhetorical encounter (as in standard public debate). The goal of the project is to create a "deliberative condition", that is a group discussion moderated by a neutral facilitator charged with upholding reasoned discussion. We explore whether a deliberative condition has a transformative effect on citizens’ preferences in direction of desired deliberative outcomes (such as other-regarding attitudes, and attitudes of respect and tolerance). Between October and December 2010, the project team conducted a deliberative field experiment on the expulsion initiative ("Ausschaffungsinitiative") of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) and the counterproposal of the government and parliament. Contrary to most deliberative experiments, deliberation took place in an online chat. We found that the online discussion group became more favorable of the counterproposal, especially compared to a control group which was only exposed to the campaign; in the control group, the approval rate for the counterproposal steadily declined from the first to the last survey. 


"Deliberative Experiments and Direct Democratic Voting" (with Marco R. Steenbergen, Thomas Gautschi, and Seraina Pedrini). Project sponsored by the Swiss National Science Foundation in the second round of the NCCR "Challenges to Democracy in the 21st Century", October 2009-September 2013.
More information


Prof. Dr. Andre Baechtiger
Universität Stuttgart
Institut für Sozialwissenschaften

Breitscheidstr. 2
70174 Stuttgart

Phone: +49 711 685-81450
Fax: +49 711 685-83432