Look Who's Talking: Deliberation and Social Influence

37 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2009

See all articles by Alice Siu

Alice Siu

Center for Deliberative Democracy

Date Written: September 3, 2009


Deliberative democracy has become increasingly popular in recent years, both in theory and in practice. In theory, many argue that deliberation is vital to our democracy (Fishkin, 1995; Habermas, 1989). But, in practice, some believe that deliberation is detrimental to our democracy (Fraser, 1992; 2007; Sanders, 1997; Young, 2000). Critics of deliberation argue that many social inequities that are present in society will be brought into deliberation, making deliberation more harmful than helpful to democracy. For example, people from higher socio-economic classes are likely more experienced in deliberative settings and are, in general, more knowledge. Therefore, in deliberations, people from higher socio-economic classes will likely dominate deliberations and as a result, people from lower socio-economic classes have less opportunity to contribute and influence their fellow group members.

Unfortunately, we know relatively little about what actually happens in deliberation, making it difficult for supporters and critics to build their cases. Therefore, this paper opens up the black box of deliberation, through analyzing transcripts from five Deliberative Polls, and provides evidence in favor of deliberation. This paper examines participation at the individual and group levels and reveals results that dispel the common belief that men and women engage in deliberations differently. In addition to analyzing socio-demographic differences in participation, this paper examines the relationship between participation and influence, which is whether participation and influence are positively correlated and the role of socio-demographics in participation and influence. Through qualitative and quantitative analyses, this paper opens up the black box of deliberation and reveals the effects of social influence on deliberation.

Keywords: deliberation, social influence, deliberative democracy, inequality

Suggested Citation

Siu, Alice, Look Who's Talking: Deliberation and Social Influence (September 3, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1468078 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1468078

Alice Siu (Contact Author)

Center for Deliberative Democracy ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-2050
United States

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