Beyond mini-me: Inclusiveness of considered interests in four Swiss Citizens' Juries on social justice (Abstract)


Policy makers are increasingly confronted with citizens’ demand for popular involvement in the formulation, decision-making and implementation of climate and social justice policies. Responding to this demand, popular participatory processes involving citizens without political expertise have set foot in these policy areas. The Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) – a randomly selected deliberative mini-public implemented for the first time in Oregon in 2008, and applied ever since seventeen times around the globe – combines the diversity of views from a near-randomly selected sample with its considered judgment after deliberation on an issue of public concern ahead of a direct-democratic popular vote. Past theoretical work has stressed that besides considered judgement, individuals taking part in participatory processes like the CIR also reconsider their self-interest and those of others. The paper extends this work by deriving an approach to detect the degree to which individuals involved directly in the deliberation consider other interests or their self-interest and how inclusive these considerations are. We use this framework to identify what triggers changes in participants’ interests and to understand why some citizens are more inclusive of certain interests than others. We test the framework by applying it to 91 participants from all four deliberative mini-publics conducted in Switzerland between 2019 and 2021 at the local and cantonal level on the topics of climate change and housing policy. Choosing Switzerland as a case study allows for a longitudinal study and a comparison of a set of two cases of a Swiss CIR against another set with different processes in the same context. We construct a survey question eliciting participants considered interests of a range of political jurisdictions and combine the response data with word embeddings from transcripts of these events. Drawing on panel and mixed effects regressions for the survey data, we find substantially larger degrees of inclusive interests among older participants and those taking part in the two CIR mini-publics. These findings help policymakers and social movements to identify the importance of both individual and process characteristics in shaping to what extent popular involvement of citizens stimulates taking others’ interests into account.

Beyond mini-me: Inclusiveness of considered interests in four Swiss Citizens’ Juries on social justice (Abstract)
Alexander M. Geisler
Alexander M. Geisler
Postdoctoral researcher

I do research on the theory and practice of political communicatio and participatory innovations.