The Conversations of Democracy. Citizens' Everyday Communication in the Deliberative System
The project is to address a major gap in the empirical study of
deliberative politics. Although democratic theory's deliberative turn
stimulated increasing interest in the role of talk for the quality of
democratic politics, research paid as of yet hardly any attention to
ordinary citizens' informal conversations about politics. No assured
knowledge exists about how this form of political communication
stands up to the high normative standards of deliberation. Likewise,
there is no robust evidence on the factors that lead to a higher
deliberative quality of everyday political talk, nor on whether it
actually entails the beneficial influences on the democratic process
expected by deliberative theory.
By investigating their deliberativeness
as well as its conditions and consequences the project seeks to
contribute to a deeper understanding of people's conversations about
public affairs as the most basic form of political communication and
foundation of democracy's deliberative system. Complementing research on
political communication in institutional arenas of the deliberative
system the project seeks to answer three interrelated research
questions: (RQ1) How deliberative is citizens' everyday talk about
politics? To assess the deliberative quality of people's interpersonal
communication it will be empirically described on a range of
subdimensions and systematically compared to the ideal type of genuine
deliberation. (RQ2) Which conditions contribute to the
deliberativeness of citizens' everyday talk about politics?
approaches from participation research the project will focus on
individuals' personal skills and motivations as well as on opportunities
and constraints that result from their embeddedness in socio-spatial
and situational contexts. (RQ3) Does the deliberativeness of citizens'
everyday talk about politics lead to the beneficial consequences for
democratic politics assumed by deliberative theory? The project will
test hypotheses from deliberative theory that pertain to effects of
deliberative communication on individuals' civic orientations and legitimacy beliefs. It will thus contribute to a better understanding of the micro foundations of the system-level consequences of deliberative communication. To address these research questions the project combines a local two-wave panel survey of a random sample of citizens with a snowball survey of political discussants and aggregate data on sociopolitical contexts. To investigate the role of situational circumstances the panel will be timed in such a way that the baseline interviews reflect the normal conditions of 'between-election' politics and the reinterviews the politicized context of electoral politics.