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

Marina Lindell, André Bächtiger, Kimmo Grönlund, Kaisa Herne, Maija Setälä, Dominik Wyss

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Abstract

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.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)23–45
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Research
Volume56
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

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

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