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« Online Townhall Meetings: Exploring Democracy in the 21st Century. | Main | Network picture of attacks on online townhall report »

26 October 2009

Papers on online deliberative field experiments

There might be some interest in the scholarly papers undergirding some of the research in the aforementioned report. Below we list some of the papers from the online deliberative field experiments that we posted on SSRN.


Who Wants to Deliberate - and Why?

Michael A. Neblo
Ohio State University - Department of Political Science

Kevin M. Esterling
University of California, Riverside - Department of Political Science

Ryan Kennedy
University of Houston - Department of Political Science

David Lazer
Northeastern University - Department of Political Science; Harvard University - John F. Kennedy School of Government

Anand E. Sokhey
University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Political Science

Interest in deliberative theories of democracy has grown tremendously among political theorists over the last twenty years. Many scholars in political behavior, 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, representative samples investigating people's hypothetical willingness to deliberate and their actual behavior in response to a real invitation to deliberate with their member of Congress, we find: 1) that willingness to deliberate in the U.S. is much more widespread than expected; and 2) that it is precisely people who are 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."


Means, Motive, & Opportunity in Becoming Informed About Politics: A Deliberative Field Experiment with Members of Congress and Their Constituents

Kevin M. Esterling
University of California, Riverside - Department of Political Science

Michael A. Neblo
Ohio State University - Department of Political Science

David Lazer
Northeastern University - Department of Political Science; Harvard University - John F. Kennedy School of Government

Survey research on political knowledge typically measures citizens' ability to recall political information on the spot, and in these surveys most citizens appear appallingly ignorant. Deliberative theorists emphasize, however, that citizens' capacity to become informed when given a motive and opportunity to participate in politics is equally important for democratic accountability. We assess this capacity among citizens using two deliberative field experiments. In the summer of 2006 we conducted a field experiment in which we recruited twelve current members of the U.S. Congress to discuss immigration policy with randomly drawn small groups of their constituents. In the summer of 2008, we conducted a similar experiment using a large group of constituents interacting with Senator Carl Levin of Michigan on detainee policy. Using an innovative statistical method to identify average treatment effects from field experiments, we find that constituents demonstrate a strong capacity to become informed in response to this opportunity. The primary mechanism for knowledge gains is subjects' increased attention to policy outside the context of the experiment. This capacity to become informed seems to be spread widely throughout the population, in that it is unrelated to prior political knowledge.


Estimating Treatment Effects in the Presence of Noncompliance and Nonresponse: The Generalized Endogenous Treatment Model

Kevin M. Esterling
University of California, Riverside - Department of Political Science

Michael A. Neblo
Ohio State University - Department of Political Science

David Lazer
Northeastern University - Department of Political Science; Harvard University - John F. Kennedy School of Government

If ignored, non-compliance with a treatment and nonresponse on outcome measures can bias estimates of treatment effects in a randomized experiment. To identify treatment effects in the case where compliance and response are conditioned on subjects' unobserved compliance type, we propose the parametric generalized endogenous treatment (GET) model. GET incorporates behavioral responses within an experiment to measure each subjects' latent compliance type, and identifies causal effects via principal stratification. We use Monte Carlo methods to show GET has a lower MSE for treatment effect estimates than existing approaches to principal stratification that impute, rather than measure, compliance type for subjects assigned to the control. In an application, we use data from a recent field experiment to assess whether exposure to a deliberative session with their member of Congress changes constituents' levels of internal and external efficacy. Since it conditions on subjects' latent compliance type, GET is able to test whether exposure to the treatment is ignorable after balancing on observed covariates via matching methods. We show that internally efficacious subjects disproportionately select into the deliberative sessions, and that matching does not break the latent dependence between treatment compliance and outcome. The results suggest that exposure to the deliberative sessions improves external, but not internal, efficacy.

Posted by David Lazer at October 26, 2009 7:32 PM