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Reconsidering the Role of Procedures for Decision Acceptance

  • Peter Esaiasson, Mikael Persson, Mikael Gilljam and Torun Lindholm

Procedural fairness theory posits that the way in which authoritative decisions are made strongly impacts people’s willingness to accept them. This article challenges this claim by contending that democratic governments can achieve little in terms of acceptance of policy decisions by the procedural means at their disposal. Instead, outcome favorability is the dominant determinant of decision acceptance. The article explicates that while central parts of procedural fairness theory are true, outcome favorability is still overwhelmingly the strongest determinant of individuals’ willingness to accept authoritative decisions. It improves on previous research by locating all key variables into one causal model and testing this model using appropriate data. Findings from a large number of experiments (both vignette and field) reproduce the expected relationships from previous research and support the additional predictions.

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Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg, Sweden (email:; Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg (email:; Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg (email:; Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Sweden (email: Data replication sets are available at and online appendices are available at

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