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Ideology, Deliberation and Persuasion within Small Groups

Kevin Esterling, Ph.D., UC Riverside
Jan 31, 2013 from 12:00 PM to 01:30 PM (America/Los_Angeles / UTC-800)
1130 K Street, Room LL3
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This talk discusses the dynamics of small group persuasion within a large scale randomized deliberative experiment, and in particular whether persuasion in this context is driven by the ideological composition of small groups, to which participants were randomly assigned. In these discussions focusing on U.S. fiscal policy, ideological persuasion occurs but does not tend to be polarizing, a result that is inconsistent with the 'law' of group polarization identified in small group research.  In addition, the results demonstrate the presence of persuasion that is net of ideological considerations, a residual form of preference change that Esterling and his co-authors label 'deliberative persuasion.'  The direction and magnitude of deliberative persuasion are each associated with participants' perceptions of the informativeness of the discussion, but not with the civility or the enjoyableness of the discussion.  In addition, informativeness is most closely associated with deliberative persuasion for liberals who come to agree with conservative policies, for conservatives who come to agree with liberal policies, and equally associated for both liberals and conservatives on items that are orthogonal to ideology.  The results show that small group dynamics depend heavily on the context in which discussion occurs; that much of the small group experimental work pays little to no attention to this context; and that deliberative institutions are likely to ameliorate many of the pathologies that are often attributed to small group discussion.

Kevin_EsterlingProfessor Esterling's research focuses on deliberative democracy in American national politics. His current work identifies the conditions that lead citizens to engage constructively in public discourse. He is the author of The Political Economy of Expertise: Information and Efficiency in American National Politics (University of Michigan Press, 2004). He has published in a number of journals, including The American Political Science Review, Political Analysis, The Journal of Politics, Rationality and Society, Political Communication, and the Journal of Theoretical Politics. His work has been funded by the National Science Foundation and by the MacArthur Foundation. Esterling was previously a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of California, Berkeley and a postdoctoral research fellow at the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions at Brown University. He received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago in 1999.

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