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Keywords:

  • attitude change;
  • deliberation;
  • ideology;
  • education

Abstract

Research suggests that the rightist discourse on immigration appeals to left-leaning citizens with lower levels of education. The opposite is, however, not true for right-wing voters with lower educational levels, and this asymmetry leaves left-wing parties at a disadvantage compared with the right on immigration and integration issues. Deliberative theory promises that discussion, information and reflection can promote a more balanced political discussion and a more enlightened citizen. This article assesses the extent to which deliberative polling increases the ideological awareness of citizens with lower educational levels. More specifically, it gauges the extent to which especially less well educated left-wing voters – those whose attitudes research finds to be particularly out of tune with their ideological predispositions regarding immigration and integration – adjust their attitudes as a consequence of deliberate exposure to informational input and the presentation of two-sided arguments. Use is made of unique data generated during the first European-wide deliberative polling project, ‘EuroPolis’, held in 2009. The results indicate that less well educated left-wing voters indeed have slightly more negative attitudes towards immigrants than leftist voters with secondary or post-secondary educational levels. Turning to the micro-mechanisms of attitude change in a deliberative setting, the analyses show that both levels of education and ideological predispositions play a role in the extent to which participants of the deliberative poll adjust their attitudes. In three out of four models, evidence is found that less well educated left-leaning citizens are indeed most likely to adjust their attitudes on immigration and integration after being presented with a more balanced discussion of the topic.