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Who Wants To Deliberate—And Why?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2010

Ohio State University
University of California at Riverside
University of Houston
Northeastern University and Harvard University
University of Colorado
Michael A. Neblo is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Ohio State University, 154 N. Oval Mall, Columbus, OH 43215 (
Kevin M. Esterling is Associate Professor of Political Science, University of California at Riverside, 900 University Avenue, Riverside, CA 92521 (
Ryan P. Kennedy is Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Houston, 447 Philip G. Hoffman Hall, Houston, TX 77204-3011 (
David M. J. Lazer is Associate Professor of Political Science and Computer & Information Science, Northeastern University, 301 Meserve Hall, Boston, MA 02115, as well as Visiting Scholar, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, Cambridge MA 02138 (
Anand E. Sokhey is Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Colorado, Ketchum 106, 333 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309 (


Interest in deliberative theories of democracy has grown tremendously among political theorists, political scientists, activists, and even government officials. Many scholars, however, are skeptical that it is a practically viable theory, even on its own terms. They argue (inter alia) that most people dislike politics and that deliberative initiatives would amount to a paternalistic imposition. Using two large national samples investigating people's hypothetical willingness to deliberate and their actual participation in response to a real invitation to deliberate with their member of Congress, we find that (1) willingness to deliberate in the United States is much more widespread than expected, and (2) it is precisely those people less likely to participate in traditional partisan politics who are most interested in deliberative participation. They are attracted to such participation as a partial alternative to “politics as usual.”

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2010

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