«Does Enclave Deliberation Polarize Opinions? ¨ ¨¨ Kimmo Gronlund • Kaisa Herne • Maija Setala Published online: 8 February 2015 Ó The ...»
We are interested in ﬁnding out whether the procedures enhancing deliberation in mini-publics, such as balanced information, discussion rules and moderation can restrain the negative consequences of enclave deliberation. Therefore, it is possible that there will be less pronounced differences between the treatments than anticipated in the hypotheses. Although we assume that the dynamics and outcomes of deliberation differ depending on the group composition, it should also be acknowledged that the set-up of deliberative mini-publics may foster deliberative forms of communication even in groups of like-minded people. For example, Farrar et al. (2009) found that the group composition has little impact on deliberative outcomes in their randomized experiments. Moreover, the authors point out several factors which can neutralize group composition effects, including the types of topics discussed and the presence of varying viewpoints.
In deliberative mini-publics, information provided to participants can be expected to broaden the set of arguments put forward in discussions. It may also create a common pool of arguments which may lessen polarization (see e.g.
Isenberg 1986, 1148). Moreover, the use of moderators and the application of speciﬁc rules for discussion are likely to enhance a free and equal exchange of viewpoints as well as an evaluation of arguments based on their merits. As pointed out by Kunda (1990), the tendency of individuals to move toward motivated reasoning is constrained by their ability and willingness to construct reasonable justiﬁcations for their conclusions. The set-up of a deliberative mini-public, emphasizing processes of reasonable justiﬁcation as ‘the name of the game’, can be expected to encourage reasoning and argumentation about the pros and cons concerning the issue. This type of reasoning can be enhanced further if participants
adopt argumentative strategies which help to compensate the biases in the argument pool, for example, by acting as ‘devil’s advocates’.
Experimental procedure The topic of the deliberation experiment was immigration policy which is a contested and debated issue in Finland. Over the last years, the populist right wing Finns party,3 in particular, has kept the immigration issue on the agenda. The main purpose of our experiment was to compare deliberation in two types of small groups: (1) groups consisting of like-minded people, and (2) groups consisting of people having different opinions on immigration. Those who indicated willingness to take part in the experiment were randomly assigned to like-minded groups, mixed groups, and a control group. Subjects in the ﬁrst two groups took part in the deliberation event, whereas the control group only ﬁlled in three mail-in surveys.
The participants’ opinions were measured before and after deliberation.
Respondents with negative attitudes to immigration formed a con enclave, whereas respondents with a positive view on immigration formed a pro enclave. Within enclaves, subjects were randomly assigned into two treatments and a control group.
A short survey (T1) was ﬁrst mailed out to a simple random sample of 12,000 adults ˚ in the region of Turku/Abo. The sample was provided by the ofﬁcial population registry of Finland. Of the addressed sample, 39 % (n = 4,681) responded to the survey. T1 consisted of 14 items measuring the respondents’ attitudes on immigration.
The questions were ﬁrst pilot tested with students at two universities in order to measure the appropriateness of the questions for the purpose of the experiment. All survey items worked well both in the pilots and in the actual survey conducted among the random sample (T1). In the surveyed sample, all 14 items loaded on one single factor and Cronbach’s Alpha of the sum variable reached 0.94. Therefore, we concluded that the questions measured attitudes toward immigration on a onedimensional scale and constructed a sum variable of the 14 items. Each item was ﬁrst recoded into a scale from 0 to 1, so that 1 indicates the most immigration-friendly attitude. Thus, the index can vary between 0 and 14. The questions are listed in Appendix 1. Figure 1 shows the initial dispersion of attitudes among those respondents (n = 3,232) who allowed further contact from the research group.
The histogram shows that the initial opinions almost followed the normal distribution.
Thus, we felt conﬁdent to use the sum variable as a ground for creating the con and pro enclaves. Since the design of the experiment required people with clear views on the immigration issue, we excluded moderates, i.e. respondents whose opinions on immigration were close to the median value of the frequency distribution (n = 631).4 The Finnish name of the party is Perussuomalaiset and it is sometimes referred to as the ‘True Finns party’. The party won a landslide victory in the Parliamentary election of 2011 with 19.1 % of the votes.
Those whose value for the sum variable was [8.3 were included in the pro enclave, and those whose value was\6.7 were included in the con enclave. The cutoff points were chosen based on the distribution of the opinions in the sample. The median value is 7.61 and the arithmetic mean 7.28 with a standard deviation of 2.98. The cutoff points grouped deciles 1–4 into the con enclave and deciles 7–10 into the pro enclave. Thus, the ﬁfth and sixth deciles were left out from further contacts.
Fig. 1 The dispersion of initial attitudes on immigration among the respondents The second survey (T2) with 37 items and an invitation to take part in a deliberation (and a separate debrieﬁng) event was sent to 2,601 people who qualiﬁed as members of either the con or the pro enclave. At this point, it was clearly stated that the deliberation event was an integrated part of the research project and that a response to the survey meant a preliminary agreement to take part in it. Furthermore, it was clariﬁed that only a part of those who volunteered could be included in the deliberation event and that the choice would be made by lot. Each participant who completed all stages of the project was compensated. A gift certiﬁcate worth 90 Euros was given to each participant of the deliberation and debrieﬁng events and 15 Euros to those whose task was only to ﬁll in the surveys (i.e. the control group).
Eventually, 805 people volunteered, and 366 were invited to take part in the deliberation event. The target sample was 256 participants, which would have allowed for 32 small groups of eight participants (eight pro like-minded, eight con like-minded and 16 mixed groups). Stratiﬁed sampling was used in order to guarantee representation in terms of the pro and con enclaves as well as age and gender. Random sampling was used within the two strata. Unfortunately, the target of 256 deliberators was not achieved and 207 people showed up.5 Especially people A more thorough analysis of the attrition process can be found in Karjalainen and Rapeli 2015.
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in the con enclave tended to abstain at this ﬁnal stage, even though there were no indications of this kind of a bias at the earlier stages of the recruitment process.
Figure 2 shows the phases of the recruitment process.
Since some of the invited participants with anti-immigrant attitudes dropped out at the ﬁnal recruitment stage, we wanted to check if the sample of people turning out to deliberate was skewed when it comes to attitudes. In Table 1, comparisons between the preliminary invited sample (n = 2,601), the initially volunteered respondents (n = 805), the invited (n = 366) and the actual participants (n = 207) are made within the two enclaves. It can be seen that the participants in the con enclave were slightly more moderate, i.e. less anti-immigrant, compared to the whole enclave at earlier stages. In fact, the difference in opinions in the con enclave between the participants (n = 86) and the ones who did not show up (n = 97) is statistically signiﬁcant at the 0.01-level. In other words, it was harder to attract people with the most anti-immigrant opinions to present their views in a deliberative event. In the pro enclave, the participants were slightly more liberal than the mean of the whole enclave at earlier stages. This difference is not, however, statistically signiﬁcant.
For the deliberation event, random allocation was used within the con and pro enclaves. There were 10 pro like-minded groups, ﬁve con like-minded groups and 11 mixed groups.6 Table 2 displays the assignment into the four types of groups and shows the number of individuals within each cell. The control group consisted of 369 people who were initially willing to take part and who returned each of the surveys T1, T2 and T4. The socio-demographics of the participants and the control group are shown in Appendix 3.
The phases of the experiment are described in Table 3. The deliberation event took place during one weekend, 31 March–1 April 2012. Each participant took part only during 1 day, either on Saturday or Sunday. Each day, the event followed the same procedures and lasted from 9.30 a.m. until 3 p.m. The day started with a short 15-item quiz (T3) measuring knowledge related to immigration and general politics.
The quiz was composed of four immigration-related items that were included in the brieﬁng material, six issues that were not included in the brieﬁng material, and ﬁve issues related to general political knowledge. After the knowledge quiz, the participants were briefed about some basic facts related to immigration in Finland.
The brieﬁng was designed to be balanced, focused on basic facts, and it was presented as a slide show in an auditorium to all participants. It consisted of statistical data on migration from and to Finland over the years as well as the number of immigrants by country of origin in Finland. Furthermore, it explained the ofﬁcial processes required for legal immigration and statistics about different grounds for acquiring a residence permit in Finland. The material ended with a short immigration-related glossary. All politically controversial topics, e.g. statistics about crime and unemployment, were left out. A copy of the information material was also handed out to each participant.
One of the mixed groups was a Swedish-speaking group allowing participants to talk in their mother tongue.
Table 3 The phases of the experiment Pre surveys (January 2012)
1. Short survey to form enclaves (T1)
2. Second survey with invitation (T2) The deliberation event (March 31–April 1, 2012)
3. Knowledge quiz (T3)
4. General instructions and brieﬁng on the immigration issue
5. Deliberation in small-n groups (4 h, incl. 45 min lunch break)
6. Survey measuring opinion and knowledge changes and experiences of the event (T4) Debrieﬁng (April 20, 2012)
7. A follow up survey measuring the stability of opinion changes (T5)
8. Debrieﬁng of the study for participants After the brieﬁng, facilitated small-n group deliberations began. Each mixed group consisted of exactly eight participants, of which four were randomly selected from the con enclave and four from the pro enclave. While it was seen as crucial to achieve an exact balance between the two enclaves in each mixed group, small variation in group size was allowed in the like-minded treatment. This was due to attrition at the last stage.7 The group discussions lasted for 4 h, including a lunch break of 45 min. The group discussions ended with a survey (T4) repeating the questions in T1, T2 and T3, apart from socio-economic background variables. The survey also included questions on the participants’ experiences of the deliberation event.
In each group, a trained moderator facilitated the discussion. A written description of the rules of the discussion was handed out to the participants, emphasizing respect for other people’s opinions, the importance of justifying one’s opinions and openness to others’ points of view. The moderators also read aloud these rules.
In the beginning of the group discussion, each group member put forward a theme related to the immigration issue which they wished to be discussed. The moderator wrote these themes down on a blackboard. The proposed themes covered issues such as employment-based immigration, humanitarian-based immigration, acculturation, multiculturalism, unemployment, crime and security, language and education, immigration attitudes, and the cost of immigration. There were no major differences between the themes put forward by the participants in the pro and con enclave. However, none of the con participants suggested the theme of immigration attitudes, i.e. prejudices and racism, as a discussion topic. After the round of introducing discussion themes, free discussion on the proposed themes followed.
The moderators interfered only if any of the group members dominated or completely withdrew from the discussion. Furthermore, the moderator could put Therefore, of the 15 like-minded groups, nine had eight participants, whereas three groups consisted of nine, two groups of seven and one group of six participants.
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forward a theme for discussion from those written down on the board in case the discussion paused. Discussions in both like-minded and mixed groups lasted throughout the whole period of time. However, there were slight differences in discussion activity as there were, on average, more speech acts (70.8) in the mixed treatment than in the like-minded treatment (50.7).
Results – hypotheses testing
In this section we present the main results of the experiment, i.e. the development of opinions and knowledge in like-minded and mixed groups. The statistical signiﬁcance of potential differences and changes is determined through t-tests.
We compare both the development of opinions and knowledge according to the four groups achieved by the combination of enclave and treatment (see Table 2). The comparisons are mainly done within- subjects (paired pre- and post-test), but also between-subjects testing when applicable.