Civil Society Making Political Claims: Outcries, Interest Advocacy, and Deliberative Claims

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Abstract

Increased citizen participation is proposed to remedy democratic deficits. However, it is unclear whether such participation improves reason-based discussions or whether it serves mainly as a safety valve for discontented citizens. To what extent does citizen-initiated participation involve reason-based arguments? This study examines citizens’ reason giving based on unique data on citizens’ contacts with local authorities in Sweden. It provides support for proponents of deliberative participation, as an unexpected amount of contacts provided reasons for clearly stated positions and invitations to a constructive dialogue with authorities. There is variation across issues. More conflictual issues involve fewer intentions to participate in a reasoned exchange of arguments. The study shows that citizens deliver more reason-based input to democratic decision making when they prepare their position in groups than when they participate as individuals. Findings are preliminary but clearly illustrate the fruitfulness of widening the research agenda on civic engagement in politics and public administration.

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