Who Talks and Who Listens?

The Journal of Deliberative Democracy has published a new study [Open Access], spearheaded by Lea Gärtner, in collaboration with Harald Schoen and myself: Who Talks and Who Listens? How Political Involvement Influences the Potential for Democratic Deliberation in Everyday Political Talk

Multi-step model of high-quality deliberation in everyday political talk.


In times of rising partisan polarization and increasing disenchantment with political elites, everyday political talk could constitute an important venue for citizen deliberation. Everyday political discussions offer ordinary people opportunities to strengthen deliberative skills, form considered preferences ,and hone political identities in relation to others. However, informal political discussions seldom follow the norms of formal deliberative fora, calling into question how often such everyday talk really enables democratic deliberation in the broader public. The answer is essential to assess the deliberative potential of everyday political talk and thus to understand its role in the deliberative system. Focusing on the democratic and deliberative standards of reason-giving, mutual respect, equality, and inclusion, we develop a multi-step model of democratic deliberation in everyday political talk, in which the potential for democratic deliberation depends on the presence of all four core standards. As individuals’ propensity for democratic deliberation is likely to vary with their level of political involvement, both in terms of how much they care about politics and how strongly they identify with political groups, we consider both dimensions when modeling democratic deliberation in individuals’ everyday political discussions. We test all steps of the model with data from a large panel survey tracing the informal political discussion networks of 18,079 German voters during the year leading up to the national elections in 2017. Our findings indicate that everyday political talk is more deliberative than expected, as the three core standards of democratic deliberation we can measure are largely upheld in people’s political exchanges.

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