Ideology, Deliberation and Persuasion within Small Groups: A Randomized Field Experiment on Fiscal Policy

32 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2013 Last revised: 13 Dec 2013

See all articles by Kevin M. Esterling

Kevin M. Esterling

University of California, Riverside (UCR) - Department of Political Science

Archon Fung

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Taeku Lee

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science; University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law Study Group

Date Written: October 2013

Abstract

This paper evaluates the dynamics of small group persuasion within a large scale randomized deliberative experiment, in particular whether persuasion in this context is driven by the ideological composition of small groups, to which participants were randomly assigned. In these discussions focusing on U.S. fiscal policy, ideological persuasion occurs but does not tend to be polarizing, a result that is inconsistent with the "law'' of group polarization identified in small group research. In addition, the results demonstrate the presence of persuasion that is net of ideological considerations, a residual form of preference change that we label "deliberative persuasion.'' The direction and magnitude of deliberative persuasion are each associated with participants' perceptions of the informativeness of the discussion, but not with the civility or the enjoyableness of the discussion. In addition, informativeness is most closely associated with deliberative persuasion for liberals who come to agree with conservative policies, for conservatives who come to agree with liberal policies, and equally associated for both liberals and conservatives on items that are orthogonal to ideology. The results show that small group dynamics depend heavily on the context in which discussion occurs; that much of the small group experimental work pays little to no attention to this context; and that deliberative institutions are likely to ameliorate many of the pathologies that are often attributed to small group discussion.

Suggested Citation

Esterling, Kevin M. and Fung, Archon and Lee, Taeku, Ideology, Deliberation and Persuasion within Small Groups: A Randomized Field Experiment on Fiscal Policy (October 2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper; HKS Working Paper No. RWP13-036; American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2301191 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2301191

Kevin M. Esterling (Contact Author)

University of California, Riverside (UCR) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Riverside, CA 92521
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.politicalscience.ucr.edu/people/faculty/esterling/index.html

Archon Fung

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-9846 (Phone)
617-496-1722 (Fax)

Taeku Lee

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law Study Group

Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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