The Efficacy of Deliberative Democracy
Celaya, Christopher Michael
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CitationCelaya, Christopher Michael. 2019. The Efficacy of Deliberative Democracy. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractSocial, political, and academic programs that leverage deliberative democratic procedures are lauded for their ability to increase participant knowledge, sophistication, and efficacy. Myriad studies link deliberative programs to increases in these measures, but two major questions remain in the deliberative democracy literature. First, do these types of programs have an impact beyond the effects on those who participate? And second, does the deliberation itself lead to these increases, or some other facet of the associated program? The three projects that comprise this dissertation are an early, and in some ways first, step toward answering these questions. In the first, I observed two promising deliberative programs for their potential political impact and conducted elite interviews with program directors and founders, political officials, and social activists, finding some evidence that these programs can moderately affect political decisions, but that they are much more capable of setting the political agenda and shaping ideology, the second and third faces of power. These observations also revealed an important clue about why differently designed deliberative programs lead to different outcomes in the above measures for participants; deliberators seemed to gain at least as much knowledge from engagement with experts as with fellow deliberators. I conducted a large laboratory experiment to test these two treatments and found, somewhat counterintuitively, that a Q&A session with experts outperformed pure deliberation for increasing knowledge, sophistication, and efficacy, and that deliberation never outperformed the Q&A. Moreover, the Q&A also dramatically outperformed an information-packet only control group, suggesting that the effects ascribed to deliberation were being misattributed. Given that these were counterintuitive results, in the third project I triangulated on them using a different methodological approach: in-depth participant interviews, qualitative survey analysis, and more observational research. I confirmed that most learning is attributed to engagement with experts, and that almost no knowledge or efficacy increases are attributed to deliberation. There is some evidence that participants made more sophisticated decisions after deliberating, but participants almost unanimously ascribed these decisions to participants with extant knowledge creating a “wisdom of the multitude” effect rather than being caused by deliberation itself.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029773
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