What can politicians, journalists and other actors with communicative power do to strengthen citizen commitment to democracy? In a new study, Florian Foos (LSE) and I propose „democratic persuasion“ as an actionable intervention to bolster the societal foundations of democracy. We tested the efficacy of democratic persuasion in a field experiment that we conducted in collaboration with several members of German parliaments from various democratic parties. Our results are promising. Here is the pre-print:
Political entrepreneurs put liberal democracy under pressure by fueling concerns and exploiting citizens’ fragile commitment to this system of government. As difficult trade-offs are made apparent in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, we investigate one communicative strategy that political elites who want to defend the principles and practices of self-governance in pluralist societies can pursue. We propose “democratic persuasion” as an actionable, theory-driven intervention to increase the resilience of citizens‘ commitment to liberal democracy. „Democratic persuasion“ requires that legislators actively make the case for democracy and discuss inherent trade-offs while engaging existing doubts and misperceptions. We invited citizens on facebook to attend one of sixteen Zoom townhalls organized in collaboration with members of the German parliament. Each legislator conducted two town halls and we randomly assigned the townhall, where they employed „democratic persuasion“. Results suggest that “democratic persuasion” increases support for liberal democracy among citizens in the short term.