Can Deliberative Minipublics Influence Public Opinion? Theory and Experimental Evidence
39 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2017 Last revised: 20 Feb 2018
Date Written: January 4, 2018
Deliberative minipublics are small groups of citizens who deliberate together about a policy issue and convey their conclusions to decision-makers. Theorists have argued that deliberative minipublics can give observers evidence about counterfactual, 'enlightened' public opinion --- what the people would think about an issue, if they had the opportunity to deliberate with their fellow citizens. If the conclusions of a deliberative minipublic are received in this spirit and members of the public revise their opinions upon learning them, then deliberative minipublics could be a means of bringing actual public opinion into closer conformity with counterfactual, enlightened public opinion. We formalize a model of this theory and report the results of a survey experiment designed to test its predictions. The experiment produced evidence that learning the conclusions of a deliberative minipublic influenced respondents' policy opinions, bringing them into closer conformity with the opinions of the participants in the deliberative minipublic.
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