Recent experimental research suggests that ordinary citizens are capable of behaving in a democratic and deliberative way in controversial political debates, when given the right instructions. In this study, we test the potential of such instructions in contexts where levels of polarization, conflict and social marginalization are high. Using a randomized controlled experimental design, we test the effect of encouraging members of marginalized and conflict-affected communities in Colombia to live up to the deliberative ideal, including free participation, mutual respect, justification of arguments, and contributing to the common good. Results indicate that deliberative instructions have a positive effect on intervention levels, but fail to increase discourse quality. We also find that socio-economic differences (especially education and gender), as well as inter-group trust dynamics, explain much of the variation in discourse quality. Promoting deliberative democracy under unfavorable conditions might therefore require a combination of short-term policy measures aimed at increasing communal trust, long-term efforts to improve schooling levels, and ensuring constraint-free participation. There is, however, no treatment yet that can ensure deliberation success.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Political Science and International Relations