Deliberative theorists argue that democracies face an increasing legitimacy crisis for lack of effective representation and robust decision-making processes. To address this problem, democratic reformers designed minipublics, such as Citizens Juries, Citizens Assemblies, and Deliberative Polls. Little is known, however, about who trusts minipublics and why. We use survey experiments to explore whether minipublics in three US states were able to influence the electorate’s policy knowledge and voting choices and whether such influences hinged on legitimacy. On average, respondents were uncertain or tilted towards distrust of these minipublics. We found higher levels of trust among people of color compared to Whites, poor compared to rich, and young compared to old. Specific information about minipublic design features did not boost their perceived legitimacy. In fact, one result suggests that awareness of balanced partisan testimony decreased trust. Finally, results show that minipublics can sway voters and improve knowledge, above and beyond the effects of a conventional voter pamphlet, but these effects were largely independent of minipublic trust.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science