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Participatory Decision Making: A Field Experiment on Manipulating the Votes

  • Vreeland, James
  • Spada, Paolo

Many believe that deliberative democracy, where individuals discuss alternatives before voting on them, should result in collectively superior outcomes because voters become better informed and decisions are justified using reason. These deliberations typically involve a moderator, however, whose role has been under-examined. We conduct a field experiment to test the effects moderators may have. Participants in a class of 107 students voted on options over their writing and exam requirements. Before voting, they participated in group discussions of about five people each with one moderator. Some (randomly assigned) moderators remained neutral throughout, while others made limited interventions, supporting a specific option. We find a substantial moderator effect. Our experiment is structured like deliberations used world-wide to make community decisions and thus should have some external validity. The results indicate that if organized interest groups had influence over moderators, they might be able to hijack a deliberative decision-making process.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 24048.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:24048
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  1. Mansuri, Ghazala & Rao, Vijayendra, 2004. "Community-based (and driven) development : A critical review," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3209, The World Bank.
  2. Platteau, Jean-Philippe & Gaspart, Frederic, 2003. "The Risk of Resource Misappropriation in Community-Driven Development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(10), pages 1687-1703, October.
  3. James D. Fearon & Macartan Humphreys & Jeremy M. Weinstein, 2009. "Can Development Aid Contribute to Social Cohesion after Civil War? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Post-conflict Liberia," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 287-91, May.
  4. Kevin M. Morrison & Matthew M. Singer, 2007. "Inequality and Deliberative Development: Revisiting Bolivia's Experience with the PRSP," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 25(6), pages 721-740, November.
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