Deliberation, single-peakedness, and the possibility of meaningful democracy: evidence from deliberative polls

Journal of Politics 75 (1):80–95 (2013)
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Majority cycling and related social choice paradoxes are often thought to threaten the meaningfulness of democracy. But deliberation can prevent majority cycles – not by inducing unanimity, which is unrealistic, but by bringing preferences closer to single-peakedness. We present the first empirical test of this hypothesis, using data from Deliberative Polls. Comparing preferences before and after deliberation, we find increases in proximity to single-peakedness. The increases are greater for lower versus higher salience issues and for individuals who seem to have deliberated more versus less effectively. They are not merely a byproduct of increased substantive agreement. Our results both refine and support the idea that deliberation, by increasing proximity to single-peakedness, provides an escape from the problem of majority cycling.

Author's Profile

Christian List
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München


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