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Pulling Toward or Pulling Away: Deliberation, Disagreement, and Opinion Extremity in Political Participation


  • *Direct correspondence to Magdalena Wojcieszak, IE University, Cardenal Zúñiga, 12, 40003 Segovia, Spain 〈〉. The author thanks Dr. Michael Delli Carpini, Dr. Vincent Price, and Dr. Michael Hennessy from the Annenberg School for Communication as well as Konrad Maj and a research team from the Warsaw School of Social Psychology. The author will share data and coding with those wishing to replicate the work presented here.


Objective. Evidence supports two somewhat contradictory notions: deliberation is to encourage engagement, but disagreement may decrease participation. This study aims to provide a common denominator in the debate. It distinguishes between deliberation and political disagreement that emerges during deliberation to test which factors advance or thwart participatory goals. This study also accounts for opinion extremity, which may moderate the tested relationships.

Methods. This study draws on quasi-experimental data from participants in structured, moderated, and heterogeneous face-to-face deliberations on sexual minority rights in Poland (N=181).

Results. Relative to the pretest, deliberation discouraged moderates from active engagement and pulled them away from communicative participation. As predicted, extreme participants who perceived high disagreement intended to be more active than their counterparts in like-minded groups.

Conclusions. Research on deliberative versus participatory democracy should differentiate between deliberation and political disagreement as well as account for individual characteristics that affect responses to deliberation and disagreement. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.