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IP 7: Online, deliberative experiments on multilevel governance institutions

Important political decisions are increasingly being taken by institutions on the international, transnational, regional, or local level and less and less by nation-states. The matters they decide on are often technocratic and, as a consequence, experts leverage a great deal of influence on the outcomes. This creates an important problem: multilevel governance institutions suffer from a legitimacy problem as their decision makers are not elected by citizens and not directly accountable to them. Lacking control over such institutions, citizens may be wary of decisions made in this manner.

This research project pursues the question of whether these multilevel governance systems can be made more legitimate in the eyes of ordinary citizens and if so how. In this respect, deliberation can play a relevant role: deliberation is defined as reasoned discourse. Theorists of deliberation claim that it produces better citizens, who — in the course of the communicative process of weighing arguments and policy alternatives — become aware of the complexities of politics, resist simplistic solutions, and learn more about the issues at hand. Deliberation therefore can enhance the legitimacy of policy- and decision making in modern pluralistic, complex, and globalized societies. Moreover, it can be an instrument which boosts citizens’ levels of knowledge on politics.

The aim of the project is to carry out online, deliberative experiments in order to find out whether, and how, multilevel governance institutions, their networks, and decision-making procedures are perceived by citizens as being insufficiently democratic. The experiments complement the survey on citizens’ perceptions and expectations towards multilevel governance institutions carried out in Module 1. The project researchers take specific questions from the survey and feed them into an online blog in which participants can post messages during a period of one week. The participants in this online experiment are recruited from the survey. The results of the online experiment are then fed back into the other research projects in Module 1 thus providing those projects with knowledge on what citizens would think if they thought, knew, and deliberated more about multilevel governance institutions.

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Project leaders:
Prof. André Bächtiger, University of Stuttgart
Prof. Marco Steenbergen, University of Zurich

PhD student:
Simon Beste, University of Stuttgart