Deliberative panels as a source of public knowledge: A large-sample test of the Citizens’ Initiative Review

John Gastil, Kristinn Már Ársælsson, Katherine R. Knobloch, David L. Brinker, Robert C. Richards, Justin Reedy, Stephanie Burkhalter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evolving US media and political systems, coupled with escalating misinformation campaigns, have left the public divided over objective facts featured in policy debates. The public also has lost much of its confidence in the institutions designed to adjudicate those epistemic debates. To counter this threat, civic entrepreneurs have devised institutional reforms to revitalize democratic policymaking. One promising intervention is the Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR), which has been adopted into law in Oregon and tested in several other states, as well as Switzerland and Finland. Each CIR gathers a demographically stratified random sample of registered voters to form a deliberative panel, which hears from pro and con advocates and neutral experts while assessing the merits of a ballot measure. After four-to-five days of deliberation, each CIR writes an issue guide for voters that identifies key factual findings, along with the most important pro and con arguments. This study pools the results of survey experiments conducted on thirteen CIRs held from 2010 to 2018, resulting in a dataset that includes 67,120 knowledge scores collected from 10,872 registered voters exposed to 82 empirical claims. Analysis shows that reading the CIR guide had a positive effect on voters’ policy knowledge, with stronger effects for those holding greater faith in deliberation. We found little evidence of directional motivated reasoning but some evidence that reading the CIR statement can spark an accuracy motivation. Overall, the main results show how trust in peer deliberation provides one path out of the maze of misinformation shaping voter decisions during elections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0288188
JournalPloS one
Issue number7 July
StatePublished - Jul 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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