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date: 15 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Most theories of democracy expect an actively engaged citizenry. We examine the extent to which deliberative forms of democracy provide uniquely valuable opportunities for preference formation and engagement relative to an elite-driven politics we see as prevalent in contemporary democratic societies. Highlighting the claimed advantages of deliberation for democratic health, we then discuss whether and under what conditions citizens are able to form political preferences of similar quality to those formed in a deliberative encounter. Focusing on the concept of framing, and leveraging the evidence for the psychological processes of “elaboration,” we argue that much of the advantages of deliberation can be achieved through citizens’ reasoning over the alternative frames and arguments provided by a competitive party system. A mass democracy centered on elite provision of information and arguments, which citizens may use for largely intrapersonal deliberation, is a viable and, perhaps, the only feasible form of democratic government.

Keywords: framing, cues, deliberation, cognitive elaboration, preference formation, engagement, political psychology

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