I first compare the deliberative to the liberal and the republican models of democracy, and consider possible references to empirical research and then examine what empirical evidence there is for the assumption that political deliberation develops a truth-tracking potential. The main parts of the paper serve to dispel prima facie doubts about the empirical content and the applicability of the communication model of deliberative politics. It moreover highlights 2 critical conditions: mediated political communication in the public sphere can facilitate deliberative legitimation processes in complex societies only if a self-regulating media system gains independence from its social environments and if anonymous audiences grant a feedback between an informed elite discourse and a responsive civil society.