What drives the polarisation and moderation of opinions? Evidence from a Finnish citizen deliberation experiment on immigration

A1 Journal article (refereed)

Internal Authors/Editors

Publication Details

List of Authors: Marina Lindell, André Bächtiger, Kimmo Grönlund, Kaisa Herne, Maija Setälä, Dominik Wyss
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Publication year: 2017
Journal: European Journal of Political Research
Journal acronym: EJPR
Volume number: 56
Issue number: 1
Start page: 23
End page: 45
eISSN: 1475-6765


In the study of deliberation, a largely under-explored area is why some participants polarise their opinion after deliberation and why others moderate them. Opinion polarisation is usually considered a suspicious outcome of deliberation, while moderation is seen as a desirable one. This article takes issue with this view. Results from a Finnish deliberative experiment on immigration show that polarisers and moderators were not different in socioeconomic, cognitive or affective profiles. Moreover, both polarisation and moderation can entail deliberatively desired pathways: in the experiment, both polarisers and moderators learned during deliberation, levels of empathy were fairly high on both sides, and group pressures barely mattered. Finally, the low physical presence of immigrants in some discussion groups was associated with polarisation in the anti-immigrant direction, bolstering longstanding claims regarding the importance of presence for democratic politics.


deliberative democracy, Enclave deliberation, immigration attitudes, opinion change, opinion polarisation


Last updated on 2020-21-02 at 04:08