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Keywords:

  • democratic decision making;
  • legitimacy beliefs;
  • participatory constitution making;
  • participatory democracy;
  • procedural fairness;
  • randomised field experiments

Abstract

How can democracies satisfy citizens' demands for legitimate decision making? This article reports findings from a randomised field experiment designed to mimic decision making in large-scale democracies. Natural collectives of individuals with a shared history and future (high school classes) were studied. They were asked to make a decision about how to spend a sum of money under arrangements imposed by the researchers and distributed randomly across classes. Within this setting, empirical support for three ideas about legitimacy enhancing decision-making arrangements is tested: participatory constitution-making; personal involvement in the decision-making process; and fairness in the implementation of arrangements. Throughout the analyses it was found that personal involvement is the main factor generating legitimacy beliefs.