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Public support for citizens' assemblies selected through sortition: Survey and experimental evidence from 15 countries

Jean-Benoit Pilet (Universite libre de Bruxelles) and Damien Bol (King's College London)

Tue 16 March 2021


Virtual seminar


As representative democracies are increasingly criticized, a new institution is becoming popular in academic circles and real-life politics: asking a group of citizens selected by lot to deliberate and formulate policy recommendations on some contentious issues. Although there is much research on the functioning of such citizens’ assemblies, there are only few about how the population perceives them. We explore the sources of citizens’ attitudes towards this institution using a unique representative survey from 15 European countries. We find that those who are less educated, as well as those with a low sense of political competence and an anti-elite sentiment, are more supportive of it. Support thus comes from the ‘enraged’, rather than the ‘engaged’. Further, we use a survey experiment to show that support for citizens’ assemblies increases when respondents know that their fellow citizens share the same opinion than them on some issues.

About the speakers
Jean-Benoit Pilet is professor of political science at Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB, Belgium). He is coordinating the project POLITICIZE. Non-elected politics. Cure or Curse for Representative Democracy? (ERC Consolidator Grant). Within this project, he has worked on public support for deliberative and direct democracy, as well as on technocratic attitudes. He has recently published two articles (with Camille Bedock) on public support for sortition in France and in Belgium: Enraged, engaged, or both? A study of the determinants of support for consultative vs. binding mini-publics (Representation, 2020) and Who supports citizens selected by lot to be the main policymakers? A study of French citizens (Government & Opposition, 2020).

Damien Bol is an Associate Professor and Director of the Quantitative Political Economy Research Group in King’s College London. His research lies at the intersection of comparative politics, political behavior, and political economy with a focus on elections. He tries to understand people's experience of representative democracy across countries and political systems.

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