Who will not deliberate? Attrition in a multi-stage citizen deliberation experiment

Abstract

This article examines the determinants of attrition in deliberative mini-publics. We approach attrition from a social psychological and a socioeconomic perspective and draw several hypotheses. We find that age and life situation are the primary predictors of attrition, but also having a negative opinion about immigration and reluctance to expose oneself to conflicting opinions play an important role. We use data from a citizen deliberation experiment organized in Finland in 2012. The data allows us to analyze attrition in several stages of recruitment, resulting in 207 people from an initial population of 12,000 participating in a deliberation experiment. The topic of the discussions was immigration, and the experiment was designed to test the theoretical assumptions of enclave deliberation. Our results feed the ongoing discussion about equality and representation in deliberative mini-publics and highlight the importance of social psychological variables in explaining attrition.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The experiment was financed by the Academy of Finland and the Åbo Akademi University. It was held at that university on 31 March and 1 April 2012.

  2. 2.

    Group polarization has also been experimentally studied in the field of social psychology but not in terms of enclave deliberation.

  3. 3.

    See Appendix for the 14 immigration opinion items.

  4. 4.

    We ran a logistic regression predicting removal by researchers at this stage. We used the available independent variables age, gender and education as predictors. None of them were statistically significant, suggesting that the theoretically motivated removals did not cause systematic distortion in the composition of volunteers in terms of these arguably relevant, although few, individual characteristics.

  5. 5.

    Age groups are on a five-year interval except for the last group which includes 6 years. This operationalization attempts to provide an understandable visual portrait of the attrition–age relationship.

  6. 6.

    As argued by Clifford (2012), physical disabilities are another potential hindrance to full inclusion to the deliberative process. The extent of attrition due to disabilities, however, also falls outside the boundaries of our investigation.

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Correspondence to Lauri Rapeli.

Appendix

Appendix

Opinion measures are based on a sum variable calculated on the basis of the following 14 questions:

Do you think this is a bad or a good suggestion? (Scale 0–10, where 0 is a very bad suggestion, 5 is neither good or bad, 10 is a very good suggestion) 1. Finland should take more immigrants. 2. Migration of foreigners into Finland should be restricted as long as there is unemployment in Finland.

3. Do you think Finland will change into a better or a worse place to live when people from other countries move to Finland? (Scale 0–10 where 0 is “Changes into a worse place”, 5 is “Changes neither to a worse nor a better place; 10 is “Changes into a better place”)

What do you think about the following suggestions? (“Strongly disagree”; “Disagree”; “Agree”; “Strongly agree”).

4. It is good for the Finnish economy that people from other countries move to Finland. 5. Immigrants take away jobs from Finnish natives. 6. Immigrants should have the same right to social security as Finns even if they were not Finnish citizens. 7. The state and the municipalities use too much money to aid immigrants. 8. Immigration poses a serious threat to our national originality. 9. Everyone that wants to come to Finland to live and work must be allowed to do so. 10. Immigration policy should primarily favor Christians instead of other religions. 11. Generally speaking, immigrants adapt well into the Finnish society. 12. I would be happy to have an immigrant as a co-worker. 13. I would accept an immigrant as a family member. 14. I would accept immigrants in my neighborhood.

Avoid confrontation: I avoid the company of people whose values, attitudes or opinions are different from my own; Gender: 0 = Male; 1 = Female; Age: Age in years; Education: What is the highest level of education you have completed? 0 = Comprehensive; 20 = Vocational; 40 = Matriculation; 60 = College-level vocational; 80 = Polytechnic; 1 = University.; Employment status: Which of the following best describes your life situation? Are you..? Full-time employed 0 = No; 1 = Yes. Retired 0 = No; 1 = Yes. Unemployed 0 = No; 1 = Yes. Child in household: Are there other persons in your household besides you? Number of under 18 year olds. 0 = no children; 1 = at least one child.

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Karjalainen, M., Rapeli, L. Who will not deliberate? Attrition in a multi-stage citizen deliberation experiment. Qual Quant 49, 407–422 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11135-014-9993-y

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Keywords

  • Deliberative democracy
  • Enclaves
  • Experimental research
  • Survey methodology
  • Attrition
  • Nonresponse