Scaling Up? Unpacking the Effect of Deliberative Mini-Publics on Legitimacy Perceptions

Micha Germann, Sofie Marien, Lala Muradova

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Deliberative mini-publics are increasingly used to try to tackle public discontent with the functioning of democracy. However, the ability of mini-publics to increase perceptions of legitimate decision-making among citizens at large remains unclear, given especially that existing studies have not considered the potentially damaging effects of mini-public recommendations not being followed. We designed, pre-registered, and ran a survey experiment in Ireland to test the effects of mini-publics on legitimacy perceptions conditional on whether or not their non-binding policy recommendations are honored (N= 1,309). We find that mini-publics increase legitimacy perceptions among the broader citizenry; however, these beneficial effects are largely limited to situations in which their recommendations are honored. Additional results suggest that it makes no difference whether mini-public recommendations are overturned by elected representatives or by citizens in a referendum. Finally, we find that the legitimacy-enhancing effects of participatory processes are driven by citizens with low political trust.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolitical Studies
Early online date2 Dec 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Dec 2022


  • deliberative democracy
  • legitimacy perceptions
  • mini-publics
  • participatory democracy
  • procedural fairness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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