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.”
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