From citizens’ deliberation to popular will formation: Generating democratic legitimacy through transnational deliberative polling

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Series Details No.12, November 2011
Publication Date 2011
ISSN 1890- 7741
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In this article, we critically discuss the issues of discursive quality and democratic legitimacy in deliberative experiments taking place in a transnational and pluri-lingual setting. Our main argument is that while deliberative polls through careful scientific design and organisation may enhance equal participation and informed opinion-making of selected citizens, their representative status as part of a broader constituency and as a generator of democratic legitimacy is less clear-cut. This problem is potentially exacerbated in deliberative settings that cut across domestic political cultures and nationalised public spheres. To illustrate our argument, we analyse the results and organisation of Europolis, a transnational deliberative experiment that took place one week ahead of the 2009 European Parliamentary elections. The European deliberative poll is an ideal case for analysing the linkage between internal validity of deliberative mini-publics and democratic legitimacy because it introduces variation in terms of constituency and group plurality under the controlled conditions of a scientific experiment. By critically scrutinising this deliberative event, we provide a first take on specifying scope conditions for deliberation, with direct reference to the lessons from the polling experiment; reflection on the methodological problems associated with this undertaking; and finally attempt to discern ways to move from deliberation to will-formation and from specific to general - systemic – legitimacy in the EU setting.

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