Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Anand E. Sokhey

Second Advisor

Jeff Harden

Third Advisor

Jennifer Wolak

Fourth Advisor

John Griffin

Fifth Advisor

Toby Hopp


In this project, I address three questions concerning the design and implementation of deliberative institutions in the United States. First, how do institutional choices in recruitment affect the pool of willing participants? I argue that people will express greater interest in taking part in deliberation when it is presented in a nonpartisan manner. Using a series of online experiments, I demonstrate that invitations from nonpartisan conveners illicit interest from politically diverse groups. Second, what factors affect participants' behavior during deliberative sessions? A common critique of deliberative democracy is that it cannot overcome the well-documented biases in people's information processing. I propose a theory based in motivated reasoning, arguing that reason-giving rules in deliberative session promotes accuracy-motivated reasoning over directionally-motivated reasoning. Using experimental deliberative sessions varying the reason-giving rules, I find that reason-giving results in higher discourse quality, and decreases opinion polarization. Third, how do structural factors affect spillover effects from deliberative sessions? While it is unreasonable to expect full citizenry participation in any deliberation effort, those who do not participate may experience some of the benefits through their social networks. For this portion of the project, I use data from the experimental sessions to better understand the multiplier effects from deliberative sessions. This project addresses underdeveloped areas within the political science literature, drawing upon work on participation, information processing, and discussion networks; it also provides a much needed link to deliberative practitioners, who rarely test myriad assumptions when designing and conducting deliberative institutions.