Let the people rule, but let them talk first. How deliberative referendums can benefit representative government (DelibRef)

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Davide Morisi


Associate Professor


University of Southern Denmark


DKK 4,997,200




Semper Ardens: Accelerate


Referendums are increasingly used worldwide, and citizens are largely in favour of voting on issues. However, referendums can have a dramatic impact on a country’s society and its government, as the Brexit referendum has made clear. Can referendums have positive effects on how citizens perceive representative institutions and participate in politics? If so, how can they do it?


DelibRef focuses on deliberative referendums, a key innovation that has not been tested systematically so far. Deliberative referendums combine the benefits of letting citizens discuss about political issues (i.e., deliberation), with the simple voting mechanism of referendums. In this sense, they provide a possible answer to how referendums can benefit societies and representative institutions.


DelibRef will be structured in two subprojects. In Subproject 1 we will conduct field experiments in which small groups of citizens will discuss and vote on policy proposals that are relevant in their cities. In Subproject 2 we will combine small-group deliberation with representative survey experiments in 6 countries in which citizens will vote on nationally relevant issues.

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