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What do Participants take away from local eParticipation. Analyzing the Success of local eParticipation from a Democratic Citizens' Perspective.


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This paper asks how the intensity of individual local eParticipation affects users' perception of democratically valuable effects. Drawing on partic-ipatory and deliberative theory literature we extract four participatory effects-internal political efficacy, common good orientation, tolerance, and legitimacy. Furthermore, the paper examines which cognitive factors may moderate the relationship between intensity of participation and perception of participatory effects. Drawing on online survey data from 670 citizens engaged in public budgeting online consultations on the local level, the conducted path analysis shows that intensity of participation seems to foster the perception of common good orientation and tolerance. The other perceptions of participatory effects were not influenced by participation intensity. Findings on moderating factors indicate that the beneficial effects of online participation were not distributed unequally among participants. In conclusion, the research presents evidence for an optimistic view on local eParticipation that is able to promote democratically valuable user experiences.
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Analyse & Kritik 2018; 40(1): 1–29
Dennis Frieß* and Pablo Porten-Cheé*
What Do Participants Take Away from Local
Analyzing the Success of Local eParticipation Initiatives from a
Democratic Citizens’ Perspective
Abstract: This paper asks how the intensity of individual local eParticipation
aects users’ perception of democratically valuable eects. Drawing on partic-
ipatory and deliberative theory literature we extract four participatory eects
internal political ecacy, common good orientation, tolerance, and legitimacy.
Furthermore, the paper examines which cognitive factors may moderate the re-
lationship between intensity of participation and perception of participatory
eects. Drawing on online survey data from 670 citizens engaged in public bud-
geting online consultations on the local level, the conducted path analysis shows
that intensity of participation seems to foster the perception of common good
orientation and tolerance. The other perceptions of participatory eects were not
influenced by participation intensity. Findings on moderating factors indicate
that the beneficial eects of online participation were not distributed unequally
among participants. In conclusion, the research presents evidence for an opti-
mistic view on local eParticipation that is able to promote democratically valuable
user experiences.
Keywords: eParticipation, participatory theory, deliberative theory, evaluation re-
During the last 20 years, governments across the world have spent enormous ef-
forts to push forward eGovernment services. Some of these services include oppor-
tunities for citizens’ participation in various stages of democratic decision mak-
ing processes which we refer to as eParticipation (Susha/Grönlund 2014). While
citizens demand new opportunities for participation, politicians and administra-
*Corresponding author: Dennis Frieß, Institute of Social Science, University of Düsseldorf,
Germany, e-mail:
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2|Dennis Frieß and Pablo Porten-Cheé
tors expect that public participation could increase legitimacy and quality of the
final policies compared to strictly representative modes of policy making (New-
ton 2012). Further, participation is expected to foster citizens’ democratic skills.
Against this background, it has been argued that eParticipation is on top of the
political agenda because it is seen as a cure to the perceived crisis of democracy
(Coleman 2005; Geissel/Newton 2012). Accordingly, eParticipation could also be
understood as a democratic innovation which is defined as new institutions in-
tending to change government processes in order to improve democratic gover-
nance (Newton 2012, 5).
The prevailing majority of eParticipation initiatives emerge at the local com-
munity level (Aström/Grönlund 2012; Freschi/Medaglia/Nørbjerg 2009). From a
historical perspective, institutions designed for public participation have tradi-
tionally been associated with local arenas of decision-making (see Dahl 1994;
Fung 2003; 2004). From ancient Greece democracy until the 18th century, democ-
racy was mainly viewed as a local concept embedded in small city-states (Dahl
1994). After the emergence of nation states and representative democracy, nowa-
days trends toward decentralization, the growing importance of cities and regions
in the global economy and citizens’ participatory demands have led to a reinven-
tion of local governments (Melo/Baiocchi 2006, 588).
Ever since, the local level has been presented as the cradle of democracy
within democratic theory. Theorists such as Tocqueville (2000[1835]), Mill (2010
[1861]; 1965) and Dahl (1967; 1992) have argued that political participation in the
local community provides the ground for democratic socialization and the devel-
opment of democratic skills. Reflecting on how to institutionalize ‘Strong Democ-
racy’, Barber (1984, 267) emphasizes the “commitment to pervasive local parti-
cipation” and stresses the fundamental need of local forums for democratic talk.
Similar, communitarian theories of democracy stress the particular relevance of
the local community (Bellah et al. 1985; Etzioni 1993). Beside theoretical consid-
eration, authors such as Almond and Verba (1963) and Geissel (2009) have out-
lined the importance of citizens’ civic attitudes and skills for thriving local democ-
racy based on empirical research. Therefore, theoretical and empirical literature
suggests what Kotler (1969) has phrased “the local foundations of political life”.
However, since extensive evidence suggests that local democracies are subject
to several issues such as low voter turnouts, declining interest and trust in pol-
itics, weakness of the representative bodies and the dominance of bureaucracy
(Schaap/Daemen 2012; Dalton 2004), unsurprisingly, the local community level
has become a particularly dynamic field for participatory experiments (Geissel
Against this background, there are high expectations associated with the in-
troduction of local eParticipation initiatives, which lead to the more general ques-
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What Do Participants Take Away from Local eParticipation? |3
tion previously addressed by Rowe and Frewer (2004, 513): “How can we be sure
that public participation results in any improvement over previous ways of do-
ing things, or indeed, of any eective or useful consequences at all?” Addressing
this question brings us to the issue of the evaluation of eParticipation processes.
While evaluations of eParticipation can focus on various dimensions of the partic-
ipation process, this paper proposes a democratic perspective from the citizens’
point of view, which is rooted in participatory and deliberative theory. We argue
that this ‘democratic citizens’ perspective’ is especially valuable when it comes
to determining whether eParticipation is ‘the right pill’ for curing the democratic
malaise, as claimed by several authors (Coleman 2005; Newton 2012). This would
only hold true, if citizens experiencing democratically beneficial values when par-
ticipating online. The criteria for evaluating eParticipation from a democratic cit-
izens’ perspective are drawn from the literature on deliberative and participatory
theory, claiming that participation has democratically valuable eects on partici-
pants (Fishkin 2009; Warren 1992; Pateman 1970). We thus investigate the straight-
forward assumption that participation promotes democratic value experiences,
while taking into consideration cognitive variables that may intervene this eect.
By investigating such factors, we aim to contribute to the ongoing debate whether
or not eParticipation reinforces the existing inequalities in political participation
(Norris 2001; Wright 2012). In order to test our hypotheses, we study survey data
from individuals who took part in local eParticipation initiatives on public bud-
geting in two major German cities.
Following this introduction, the next section will sketch out some considera-
tions of the evaluation of eParticipation in order to clarify the paper’s focus, there-
after presenting the research question. The theory section reviews the literatureon
participatory and deliberative theory in order to extract four participatory eects.
We continue by introducing the research model and our hypotheses. Section four
describes the data and methodology, while the empirical findings are presented
in the fifth section. Finally, we critically discuss our findings.
2Evaluation of eParticipation
2.1 Considerations Regarding the Evaluation of eParticipation
Since eParticipation has been on the political agenda for more than two decades,
the evaluation of eParticipation projects has become a popular research topic
(Chadwick 2011; Lippa et al. 2008; Macintosh/Whyte 2008). However, while there
is a growing body of literature, the evaluation of public eParticipation processes
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4|Dennis Frieß and Pablo Porten-Cheé
still remains in its infancy. This is mainly due to the rapid development of on-
line participation practices and its complexity from an evaluative perspective. The
evaluators of such processes need to clarify at least three main questions: First,
what exactly constitutes success for an eParticipation process? Second, which
factors shape this success? And third, how do we reliably measure this success?
The first question requires a solid definition of success; thus, we have to consider
the perspective from which success is defined. Initiators may have other things in
mind than citizens or economic stakeholders when defining the success of ePar-
ticipation. The second question requires careful consideration and testing of the
various factors that might influence whether a process actually achieves the stan-
dards that define success. The third question requires criteria for evaluating the
success of the participatory processes in a certain dimension, which is dicult not
at least due to the lack of consensus in the literature (Macintosh/Coleman 2006).
In order to evaluate online participation processes systematically, Lippa and
colleagues (2008) suggested a distinction between three dierent evaluation per-
spectives. In the project perspective, evaluators focus on the specific aims and
objectives of a given project, as set by the project organizers or the management
team. The socio-technical perspective is framed by user perspectives and it focuses
on design usability, user-perceived usefulness, and acceptance. The most impor-
tant perspective for our research is what Lippa and colleagues call the democratic
perspective, which focuses on the democratic eects of eParticipation. We have
already argued that the main reason for the introduction of eParticipation ini-
tiatives is the expectation that it can have a positive influence on democracy at
large. However, in order to investigate whether eParticipation actually improves
democracy, empirical research has to extend beyond the pragmatic project and
socio-technical perspectives, which makes researching in this area a demanding
task (Lippa et al. 2008, 29).
Even though there are some studies which addressed the impact of oine par-
ticipation on the quality of democracy (Diamond/Morlino 2005; Coppedge/Rei-
nicke 1990), there is limited research on concrete eects of political participation
online. Early research in the field of eDemocracy has mainly focused on technique
deterministic ideas of how the internet will support or harm liberal democracies
(e.g. Sunstein 2001; Negroponte 1995). Soon after, empirical research has ana-
lyzed the distribution of internet usage for political purposes and how general
internet usage is related to variables such as political engagement, -participation,
-ecacy or -knowledge (Jung/Kim/Zúñiga 2011; Kensky/Stroud 2006; Norris 2001;
Boulianne 2009). However, most of these studies operationalize using ‘the’ inter-
net (sometimes even internet access) as independent variable, assuming to aect
several dependent variables (e.g. knowledge, -ecacy, -participation, engage-
ment) and do not distinguish dierent internet usage behaviors (Kensky/Stroud
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What Do Participants Take Away from Local eParticipation? |5
2006, 177). Only few studies have shed light on the questions what participants
concretely take away from political participation online (but see Knobloch/Gastil
2014; Min 2007). Therefore, little is known about the potential democratic eects
accruing from online participation.
This study aims to fill this gap by evaluating eParticipation from a democratic
citizens’ perspective, meaning that success is located in a democratic dimen-
sion and judged from a citizens’ perspective. By taking the citizens’ perspective,
we respond to the suggestions of eParticipation scholars to focus on the actual
addressees of online participation services (Gauld/Goldfinch/Horsburgh 2010;
Verdegem/Verleye 2009). Against this background, Chadwick (2011) highlighted
that only a handful of studies have adopted a thinking-inside-the-box focus on
the individual beliefs of aected stakeholders in order to comprehensively under-
stand eParticipation and its potential impact. Therefore, the aim of this paper is
not to present a comprehensive framework to evaluate eParticipation from sev-
eral perspectives, but rather to deepen the democratic perspective and to suggest
a theory-rooted approach. Accordingly, other proposed dimensions of success,
such as economic eciency, technical usability, and specific project-related goals
are neglected for the purpose of this contribution.
2.2 Research Question
In this study, we focus on government-driven local eParticipation activities related
to public budgeting consultation. The aim of this paper is to analyze and to evaluate
eParticipation from a democratic perspective and from a citizens’ point of view.
Therefore, we address the following research question: How does the intensity of
individual eParticipation aect the perception of participatory eects, and which
factors shape this perception?
The answer to this question is relevant in many ways. First, it is related to the
more general question of whether eParticipation is a solution for counteracting a
democratic malaise, which is a common narrative in current (e)Participation re-
search (Newton 2012; Wright 2012; Coleman 2005). This would only be possible
if those who engage in such processes attach democratically relevant meanings
to their participation, which we define as perceived participatory eects. Thus, if
people subjectively believe that political participation supports some democrati-
cally relevant ends, the argument is valid and supports the promotion of partici-
pation projects by governments.
Second, the question empirically challenges the general assumption of the-
orists of participatory and deliberative theory that political participation has
democracy-strengthening eects on the participants. Pateman (1970, 25) made
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6|Dennis Frieß and Pablo Porten-Cheé
the claim that “the human results that accrue through the participatory process
provide an important justification for a participatory system”. Therefore, the em-
pirical investigation of whether participants experience democratic value in their
participation, touches on a basic assumption of participatory and deliberative
Third, while investigating factors that may aect the individual perception
of participatory eects, we shed light on the question of whether users assess
their participation activities dierently and whether the subjective perception of
beneficial eects of eParticipation is distributed unequally among users. Several
authors have made the claim that political engagement and participation online
could widen the distance between socioeconomically privileged and socioeco-
nomically underprivileged milieus and therefore could reinforce the existing in-
equalities in political participation behavior (Oser/Hooghe/Marien 2013; Wright
2012; Norris 2001). This may lead to tendencies that citizens who are already po-
litically engaged will benefit more from the additional opportunities oered by
the internet. While scholars of participatory theory claim that participation itself
will have an eect on the participants’ democratic experiences, we challenge this
assumption by testing some variables that may influence the relation between the
intensity of participation and the individual perception of participatory eects
emphasized in the literature.
3Theoretical Background
3.1 Participation within Democratic Theory
Since this study aims to analyze eParticipation from a democratic perspective, the
starting point for theoretical considerations are dierent theories of democracy.
Because we are interested in participation, we should concentrate on literature
which prominently focused on citizens’ involvement in the democratic process.
Therefore, realist or elitist theories of democracy, as presented by Schumpeter
(1942) and Downs (1957), seem less useful for the purpose of this analysis, since
they do not place a strong emphasis on citizen participation in their theoretical
considerations. In contrast, theories of participatory or deliberative democracy
put a much stronger focus on citizen participation. While most participatory and
deliberative democrats agree that some representative institutions must exist, be-
cause the size and scope of the polity makes a purely participatory system of gov-
ernance impossible to implement eectively, they also argue that citizens need
more opportunities for participation in policies that aect their lives. Thus, local
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What Do Participants Take Away from Local eParticipation? |7
forums for political participation play a fundamental role in these theoretical tra-
ditions (see Barber 1984; Dahl 1994; Fung 2004).
Within the broader debate about eDemocracy, Chadwick (2009) points out
that the push for internet-enabled democracy, which emerged in the 1990s, was
largely inspired by the participatory Zeitgeist of the 1960s and 1970s. Accordingly,
authors such as Carole Pateman, Benjamin Barber, and Jürgen Habermas pro-
vided the theoretical background for intellectual reflections on how the internet
may foster democracy. Both, the strong focus on (local) citizens’ participation
as well as the strong impact on eDemocracy research provide the justification to
choose deliberative and participatory theories for the evaluation of local ePartic-
ipation initiatives. Even though these theories dier significantly in their details
(for this see Hilmer 2010; Mutz 2006), both theories acknowledge that citizen par-
ticipation should have a central role in the policy-making process. However, the
most important theoretical feature is that advocates of deliberative democracy
(Fishkin 2009; Habermas 1996) and participatory democracy (Gould 1988; Barber
1984; Pateman 1970) alike assume that political participation is going to have an
eect on the participants, which is valuable for democracy. Again, while there are
important dierences between these authors, they share the idea that the human
self is constituted through social experiences. Therefore, the experience of polit-
ical participation is assumed to be able to develop capacities and values which
are fundamental for democracy (Warren 1993, 210). In the light of this, participa-
tory and deliberative theories have been chosen to serve as the study’s theoretical
background. From an analytical point of view, these participatory eects, which
(theoretically) accrue through the process of participation, have observable di-
mensions (Mutz 2008): they emerge as empirically accessible individual percep-
3.2 Eects of Political Participation on the Individual Level
Both participatory and deliberative theorists assume that increased citizen partic-
ipation will produce myriad benefits which are unrealizable by the conventional
liberal modes of democratic participation (Warren 1993). But what are the bene-
ficial eects that are supposed to emerge from political participation? The exact
benefits are a matter of dispute and they are not always easy to extract from the
literature. This is well illustrated by Kaufman (1969), who coined the term ‘partic-
ipative politics’. He argued that the benefit of participatory politics is “the contri-
bution it can make to the development of human powers of thought, feeling, and
action” (Kaufman 1969, 84). In the same vein, Pateman (1970) highlights the ed-
ucative function of participation. According to her, participation serves an educa-
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8|Dennis Frieß and Pablo Porten-Cheé
tive function “in the very widest sense, including both the psychological aspects
and the gaining of practice in democratic skills and procedures” (Pateman 1970,
42). In addition, she asserts that participation will have an integrative function and
will benefit the acceptance of decisions. Against this background, she underlines
the self-sustaining dimension of participatory systems, which will develop and
foster its required qualities through the process of participation (Pateman, 1970,
25). This hints at a general belief in participatory theories rooted in Rousseau’s
(1953) theoretical considerations that there is a continuing interrelationship be-
tween the working of participatory institutions and the psychological qualities
and attitudes of individuals interacting within this system.
Warren (1992) puts it more precisely than Kaufman and Pateman, naming
the concrete eects that accrue through the process of participation. According
to him, individual’s participatory empowerment in everyday institutions, such
as the workplace, school, or local government, will make citizens “more public-
spirited, more tolerant, more knowledgeable, more attentive to the interests of oth-
ers, and more probing of their own interests” (Warren 1992, 8, author’s emphasis).
With regard to the outcomes of deliberation Mutz (2008, 523–524) summarizes a
variety of outcomes proposed by theorists and empiricists:
“These include, but are not limited to public-spirited attitudes; more informed citizens;
greater understanding of the sources of, or rationales behind, public disagreements; a
stronger sense of political ecacy; willingness to compromise; greater interest in political
participation; and, for some theorists, a binding consensus decision. The perceived legiti-
macy of the decision outcome is also argued to be enhanced through deliberation, although
some theorists suggest that regardless of how it is perceived, the process is inherently
This short account of outcomes or participatory eects illustrates the main argu-
ment put forward by theorists of participatory and deliberative democracy: po-
litical participation leads to more democratic citizens. However, Mutz’s summary
also reveals the amount of dierent outcomes (for more see also Friess/Eilders
2015; Delli Carpini et al. 2004; Mendelberg 2002). For the purpose of this study,
we limited our analysis on a few participatory eects. Based on the theoretical
and empirical literature we extracted four participatory eects for the later anal-
ysis. We briefly discuss them in the following paragraphs.
3.2.1 Political Ecacy
‘Political ecacy’ is a well-investigated construct within political participation
research (Morrell 2003; Nabatchi 2007). It can be defined as the subjective “feel-
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What Do Participants Take Away from Local eParticipation? |9
ing that individual political action does have, or can have, an impact upon
the political process, that is worthwhile to perform one’s civic duties” (Camp-
bell/Gurin/Miller 1954, 187) or simply as the “citizens’ perceptions of powerful-
ness (or powerlessness) in the political realm” (Morrell 2003, 589).¹Pateman
(1970) defined ecacy as a certain psychological quality that is both, required
for and developed through participation. According to her, self-governing nec-
essarily requires that the individual citizen believes that he or she is competent
and able to self-govern and therefore, is able to participate eectively in a certain
context. At the same time, she argued that political ecacy is fostered by the
participatory process. From an empirical perspective, thus, internal ecacy has
to be conceptualized as a variable that predicts political participation and can be
promoted by participation.
While Pateman’s study remains vague on the empirical level, other studies
have found that participation significantly increases political ecacy. Min (2007)
found that both online and face-to-face deliberation increase political ecacy and
the willingness to participate in politics. In the same vein, Knobloch and Gastil
(2014) examined the subjective experience of cognitive and behavioral change fol-
lowing from face-to-face and online deliberation. They found that participants in
both settings increase participants’ internal ecacy.
3.2.2 Common Good Orientation
Another eect of participation that has been stressed by theorists of delibera-
tive and participatory democracy is ‘common good orientation’. This participa-
tory eect rests on the assumption of the mutability of interests which bears the
potential for the discovery or construction of common goals among participants
(Mansbridge 1990). The argument for the common good orientation through par-
ticipation was probably first made by Rousseau (1953), who argued that public
participation serves the function of discovering the general will (volonté générale).
Mansbridge (1995, 299) pointed out that “only when citizens genuinely want what
is in the common good rather in their own particular interest can the degrada-
tion attached to civil life be combated and its moral promise fulfilled”. Further,
1Internal political ecacy, which refers to a citizen’s feeling of individual competence with re-
gard to understanding and eectively participating in politics, can be distinguished from the con-
cept of external ecacy, which refers to citizens’ perceptions of the responsiveness of political
institutions and actors to public demands (Morrell 2003, 590). While external ecacy is an im-
portant concept in the context of political participation (see Balch 1974), we limit our analysis to
internal political ecacy, which has been shown to be aected by political participation.
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10 |Dennis Frieß and Pablo Porten-Cheé
she argued that by focusing on what is good for all, citizens can develop a collec-
tive identity and therefore, experience laws not as a diktat but rather as a prod-
uct emerging from their common identity. In the same vein, Habermas (1996) has
pointed out that careful deliberation will contribute to decisions that reflect the
common good rather than private interests. Similar, Barber (1984) argues that
strong democratic talk has the potential to transform individual interests into
common interests, which also leads to community building.
In summary, participatory and deliberative theorists assume that participa-
tion in public issues helps people to clarify and redefine their own positions and
viewpoints in light of the common good. Nevertheless, empirical evidence on this
seems rare. However, experimental research on small group deliberation suggests
that deliberation can help participants to see connections between their individ-
ual and the group’s interest (Dawes et al. 1990; Orbell et al. 1988).
3.2.3 Tolerance
By thinking beyond self-interest, participants develop greater concern for others’
arguments and viewpoints, which enhances mutual understanding, respect, and
empathy (Nabatchi 2007, 86). This contributes to increased tolerance of other po-
sitions and viewpoints. Similarly, Barber (1984, 119) argued that strong partici-
patory democracy will “create a public language”. Within the process of politi-
cal talk and listening, citizens will empathize with other positions and try to un-
derstand dierent attitudes, which will make them more tolerant (Barber 1984,
173.). Reviewing the literature on participatory theory, Warren (1992) emphasizes
that even if participants fail to discover common interests, they still can learn tol-
erance. Critically discussing Habermas’ discursive model of democracy, Warren
(1993) further elaborates why deliberation is able to transform participants’ views
and attitudes—including tolerance.
Less surprisingly, the participatory eect of tolerance has also been investi-
gated empirically. Against the background of small group deliberation research,
Mendelberg (2002) points out that minority opinion can lead majorities to con-
sider new alternatives and perspectives and therefore empathize with the minor-
ity’s viewpoint. In an experimental research on online deliberation, Cappella,
Price, and Nir (2002) found that participation in online discussion is likely to pro-
duce greater awareness of the reasons behind opposing views, which can be seen
as a step toward tolerance. Similar findings were presented by Luskin, Fishkin and
Iyengar (2006) drawing on evidence from an online deliberative poll on U.S. pres-
idential primaries. Against this background, we investigate how the participants’
perception of tolerance is aected by the intensity of online participation.
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What Do Participants Take Away from Local eParticipation? |11
3.2.4 Legitimacy
Legitimacy is likely the most important but probably the least empirically re-
searched eect of political participation. Suchman (1995, 574) defines legitimacy
as “a generalized perception or assumption that the actions of an entity are
desirable, proper, or appropriate within some socially constructed system of
norms, beliefs, and definitions”. The importance of legitimacy is rooted in the
axiomatic starting point of deliberative and participatory theories, which needs
to be viewed critically regarding the basic tone adopted toward liberal and eli-
tist models of democracy. Authors such as Habermas (1996), Barber (1984), and
Pateman (1970) have amply discussed why liberal democracy fails to provide
sucient legitimacy. In order to overcome this legitimation crisis, they suggest
the need for citizens to have more opportunities to participate in politics. Against
this background, Chambers (2003, 308) emphasized that the only “legitimated
order is one that could be justified to all those living under its laws”. Accordingly,
any act of power has to be publicly articulated, explained, and justified within
the normative framework of the “forceless force of the better argument” (Haber-
mas 1975, 108). Similarly, Manin (1987) argued that since political decisions are
generally imposed on all members of a certain community, the right of all com-
munity members to participate in decision making is an essential condition for
legitimacy. While diering in detail, authors share the basic idea that deliberation
leads to more and better informed decisions, and that these decisions come to be
accepted as legitimate and justified by participants (Melo/Baiocchi 2006, 590).
While legitimacy is a major concept within the theoretical literature, it has
been only rarely investigated empirically. This may be due to its complexity, which
makes it dicult to find proper operationalizations for the concept. Nevertheless,
Stromer-Galley and Muhlberger (2009) presented evidence that individual sat-
isfaction with deliberation is associated with an increased perceived legitimacy
regarding the deliberators’ policy choices. However, previous experimental re-
search by Gangl (2003) and Morrell (1999) could not identify a positive eect of
participatory settings on the individuals’ perception of legitimacy.
4Model and Hypotheses
The participatory eects outlined above serve as the theoretical anchors for the
empirical analysis to follow. More precisely, they serve as the indicators for eval-
uating eParticipation processes from a democratic citizens’ perspective. Accord-
ingly, they serve as dependent variable, which is assumed to be aected by the
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12 |Dennis Frieß and Pablo Porten-Cheé
intensity of online participation (independent variable). However, we also assume
that the intensity of participation is not the only factor that aects the perception
of participatory eects. Drawing on previous findings from empirical participation
research (Balch 1974; Campbell/Gurin/Miller 1954; Verba/Nie/Kim 1978), we pre-
sume that satisfaction with politics,general political ecacy, and attitudes toward
participation moderate the relationship between eParticipation and the percep-
tion of participatory eects.
All these variables refer to political cognitions. When subjects have to assess
(political) objects, e.g. political eParticipation platforms, their reasoning process
relies on considerations that may help to form their assessments. Political cogni-
tions may serve as accessible and applicable considerations which are activated
when involved in political participation (Lee/McLeod/Shah 2008). Accordingly,
three political cognitions were integrated as moderator variables in our model
(figure 1). By investigating these moderating variables, we investigate whether the
benefits of eParticipation are distributed unequally among participants.
intensity of
internal political efficacy
common good orientation
satisfaction with politics
general political efficacy
attitude towards
Independent Variable Dependent Variables
Moderator Variables
Fig. 1: Model
Based on this model, we suggest the following four hypotheses: The first hypoth-
esis tests the general claim made by deliberative and participatory theorists that
participation is going to have valuable eects on participants. Therefore, we hy-
pothesize that the more citizens are involved in local eParticipation, the stronger
they experience participatory eects (Hypothesis 1).
Second, we presume that general political ecacy has a moderating eect on
the relationship between eParticipation and internal political ecacy. Thus, the
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What Do Participants Take Away from Local eParticipation? |13
second hypothesis contends that citizens who are intensively involved in local
eParticipation projects, and have a high sense of general political ecacy, are
more likely to perceive the participatory eect of internal political ecacy (Hy-
pothesis 2).
Third, we assume that satisfaction with politics has a moderating eect on the
participatory eects of perceived legitimacy. Therefore, we hypothesize that indi-
viduals who are involved in local eParticipation projects, and who are satisfied
with politics overall, are more likely to assign a legitimizing eect to eParticipa-
tion (Hypothesis 3).
Our final hypothesis contends that attitude towards participation influences
an individual’s perception of all four participatory eects. Accordingly, we hypoth-
esize that citizens who participate more intensively in a local eParticipation pro-
cess, and hold positive attitudes toward participation, are more likely to perceive
all participatory eects (Hypothesis 4).
5.1 Data and Sample
The hypotheses were tested using online survey data from online public budget-
ing consultations on a local level. In both cases, the local authorities set up ePar-
ticipation platforms and invited citizens to discuss how to invest a certain amount
of the municipal budget. Participants had the opportunity to contribute their own
proposals, vote for existing proposals or discuss them with other participants. Af-
ter three weeks of consultation, the municipal administration compiled a list of
the best rated proposals which was passed to the city council for deliberation and
decision (for a more detailed description also see Friess et al. 2013). Since the man-
agement of local resources is a crucial locus that not only impacts on quality of
life and economic outputs, but serves as an important site for the development
of democratic citizenship and practices, both processes were considered to be a
suitable case to investigate the perception of participatory eects.
Survey data was gathered from individuals who participated in an online
consultation in the two major German cities Cologne and Bonn between 2009
and 2012. Based on this population, we sampled those who were registered
and received a regular e-mail newsletter from the local government, which in-
formed them about the ongoing budgeting consultations (N = 6,149). We re-
ceived a total of 886 completed surveys. After excluding those who received an
e-mail newsletter but never participated in the online public budgeting consul-
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14 |Dennis Frieß and Pablo Porten-Cheé
tation (216 individuals), the final sample consisted of 670 subjects.²This corre-
sponds to a response rate of 11%, which is lower than usual for online surveys
(Kaplowitz/Hadlock/Levine 2004). As such, the sample has a self-selection bias,
and it is possible that it were mainly the most active individuals who took part in
the study. If this is true, the evidence presented would be of limited generalizabil-
ity. The sample’s limitation has to be taken into consideration when interpreting
the data.
Participants filled out an online questionnaire which mainly asked for their
participation in and assessment of the online public budgeting consultations. The
questionnaire was pretested and designed to allow completion in an appropriate
amount of time (approx. 10 min). There were hardly any dropouts during data
collection, which indicates that the questionnaire was of a reasonable length. The
applied questionnaire measures are described below.
Data for three demographical control variables were collected in order to test
the suggested hypotheses under externally valid conditions. These participant
characteristics also provide insights into the composition of the sample. The re-
spondents’ ages ranged from 18 to 83, and the mean age was particularly high (M
= 51.76; SD = 12.43). Most of the subjects were between 46 and 60 years old (39%),
while the other age groups were evenly represented, with an almost normal distri-
bution. Furthermore, looking at the participants’ sex, the data show that almost
two out of three participants were male (65%). The overrepresentation of men in
our sample is not surprising, as most participation studies point to the fact that
men are politically more active than women. Finally, the level of education had
the following distribution: Only a few participants had no educational degree
(1%) or a basic secondary school degree (4%). More had an intermediate sec-
ondary school degree (11%). However, most of the participants had either some
higher education (23%) or a university degree (61%). The above-average partici-
pation of highly educated subjects is a typical outcome in self-selected surveys.
The sample’s characteristics could not be compared with demographic data of the
sample population, as the latter was not available. However, (online) participa-
tion research shows that those who participate in politics tend to be older, well-
educated, and male (Oser/Hooghe/Marien 2013). Therefore, the sample could
claim (or be blamed) to include the ‘usual suspects’ of online participation.
2This study was led by the idea that coming in contact with online participation provokes what
we understand as perceptions of participative eects. Thus, although it is for many reasons im-
portant to include those that detach from (online) participation we suggest to limit the scope of
perceptions of participative eects to those experiencing previous engagement with politics on-
line. In doing so, we focus on a central claim made by deliberative and participatory theorists
which argue that participation is going to have an eect on participants.
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What Do Participants Take Away from Local eParticipation? |15
5.2 Measures
5.2.1 Dependent Variables
Based on the participatory and deliberative theory framework, this study aims to
find out how participation in local eParticipation projects aects the perception
of participatory eects. Therefore, four outcome variables were taken into consid-
eration. Subjects were asked how strongly they agree with several items and were
provided answers ranging from 1 “totally disagree” to 5 “totally agree”. As the first
dependent variable, internal political ecacy was measured with two items. The
first item reads “The public budgeting consultations allow me to be actively in-
volved in the political decisions of my town” (M= 3.08; SD = 1.19). The second
item reads “It does not make any dierence what I suggest at the public budget-
ing consultation. My proposals won’t be realized by politics anyway” (M= 2.82;
SD = 1.08). The second item was reverse coded before data analysis. Both items
showed a modest consistency (r= .43; p.001). Thus, the two items were matched
to form the internal political ecacy measure because both nevertheless point to
a joint theoretical concept (M= 2.94; SD = 0.96). The second dependent variable
was common good orientation measured with the following item: “When I consid-
ered or assessed proposals, I particularly thought about what would be best for the
majority of the citizens” (M= 4.11; SD = 0.92). Legitimacy, another dependent vari-
able, was operationalized with this item: “With the outcomes of the public bud-
geting consultation, the politicians can now take decisions that reflect the will of
the community” (M= 3.28; SD = 1.07). Finally, tolerance, the last dependent vari-
able, was operationalized with this item: “During my participation in the public
budgeting consultation, I was confronted with many dierent perspectives, even
though they did not correspond to my own views” (M= 3.79; SD = 0.86).
From a descriptive perspective, three observations become evident. Those
who were active in eParticipation promoted the belief that they could aect the
political process (rather low internal political ecacy) less strongly. In contrast,
becoming involved in eParticipation fostered the belief that the participant was
actually doing something beneficial for the whole community (rather high com-
mon good orientation). In addition, the high level of tolerance points to the fact
that when people became involved in eParticipation, they became aware of the
opinions and perspectives of others and could thus contribute with thoroughly
informed proposals.
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16 |Dennis Frieß and Pablo Porten-Cheé
5.2.2 Independent Variable
The degree of individual involvement in local eParticipation, referred to as the in-
tensity of participation, served as the independent variable. The intensity of partic-
ipation was measured by asking the following question: “Remember the last pub-
lic budgeting consultation in which you took part. Which modes of participation
were you involved in?” The following five modes of participation were provided as
answers (percent of subjects who engaged in a particular activity in parentheses):
“I submitted proposals to voting” (27%), “I directed questions to the city of [one
of two anonymized cities]” (9%), “I commented on proposals” (45%), “I assessed
proposals on the consultation platforms” (75%), and “I followed the process of
budgeting consultation but did not actively engage” (12%). While the first item re-
quired the most time and eort, the consecutive items, in descending order, were
considered to require less eort. As such, the item values were weighted after data
collection (e.g., value 5 for the activity “I submitted proposals to voting” and value
1 for the activity “I followed the process of budgeting consultation but did not
actively engage”). As multiple participation choices were possible, the recoded
items of intensity for participation were combined to form a new weighted vari-
able of intensity of participation, ranging from 1 “no participation” to 15 “highest
intensity of participation” (M= 4.70; SD = 3.41). The descriptive data show a gen-
erally low intensity of participation; however, there was a considerable degree of
variance, which allows us to explain dierences within the various participatory
5.2.3 Moderator Variables
Hypotheses 2 to 4 suggest that cognitive variables may moderate the eect of the
intensity of participation on the several assessments of participation. The mod-
erator variable, general political ecacy, was measured with the following ques-
tion: “In the following, we show you some statements addressed by some people.
Thinking of the politics in your city, how much would you agree with the follow-
ing statements?” The answers were on a scale ranging from 1 “totally disagree”
to 4 “totally agree”. Two items referred to general political ecacy: “Either way,
people like me do not have any influence on the city politics” and “There is no
way to influence the city politics beyond voting”. The two items correlated mod-
erately (r= .56; p.001), pointing to a shared dimension, and thus were matched
(M= 2.59; SD = 0.77). Attitude towards participation was operationalized with the
following five items: “In our country, too few rather than too many people are
politically active”; “We should be more politically active in order to control the
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What Do Participants Take Away from Local eParticipation? |17
actions of those governing”; “We have to be more politically active in order to in-
fluence political decisions”; “Whether we have a good government or not depends
on our interest in politics”; and “We should take the opportunity to be politically
active.” All items showed a strong consistency (α= .84) and were consequently
matched (M= 3.37; SD = 0.51). The last moderator variable, satisfaction with pol-
itics, addresses positive cognitions on the general political process. The subjects
were therefore asked: “In general, how satisfied are you with the city policy in
[name of the city]?” Subjects could grade their answers along a scale from 1 “not
at all satisfied” to 5 “very satisfied” (M= 2.35; SD = 0.90).
5.3 Analytical Approach
The hypotheses that were to be tested suggested either a) the direct eect of the
intensity of participation on dierent assessments of participation or b) that these
eects were moderated by cognitive considerations that could be accessible and
applicable when assessing participation. The hypotheses were tested in a path
model that controlled for demographic variables and which was interested in the
eect of the intensity of participation and its interaction with one of the afore-
mentioned moderators. The interaction factors were calculated as multiplications
between the independent variable and each moderator variable.
Path analysis is appropriate to test the underlying hypotheses because it can
include dierent dependent variables at the same time. Meanwhile, path analysis
requires complete data without missing values. In order to decide if missing data
in the given sample could be imputed, a missing completely at random (MCAR)
test was run to check if missing data was randomly or non-randomly distributed.
The test showed that missing data was non-randomly distributed (χ2= 196.911,
p.01, df = 151) and could thus not be imputed without risking subsequent bi-
ases in the analysis. As a consequence, the data set was screened for that variable
with most missing values, in our case the age variable. Cases with missing val-
ues in the age variable (n= 61) were excluded. A subsequent MCAR test indicated
that the remaining missing values were randomly distributed (χ2= 147.460, p>
.05, df = 124) and thus, could be imputed. Expectation maximization was chosen
as imputation technique, which means that missing values were refilled based
on regression analyses using complete values as predictors of the missing values
(Graham 2009). In total, 609 cases were included in the path analysis.
We applied path analysis to test our hypotheses because of its advantage
when it comes to test several relationships between independent and dependent
variables at the same time. This overcomes the limitations of traditional linear re-
gression models. Applying path analysis, however, comes with the disadvantage
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18 |Dennis Frieß and Pablo Porten-Cheé
in having also to rely on empirical suggestions in how to best adapt the theoreti-
cal model to the data (i.e., the model fit). The downside, however, does not mean
that theoretical assumptions were discarded. Instead, it means that theoretically
meaningful relationships were tested but as they do not appear to be significant,
they were discarded in the empirical model only to provide more validity to the
other more substantial relationships.
Starting with all variables presented in the methods section, a full model path
analysis applying the maximum-likelihood method was run to explain the four
participative eects. Considering the fact that almost all variables showed no nor-
mal distribution, the estimates were calculated based on a bootstrap of 2,000 sim-
ulated samples out of the underlying sample (Kline 2005). This method appears
to be appropriate to test models with intervening variables (Hayes 2009), also be-
cause it is less susceptible to biases due to variations from single samples. Non-
significant relationships between independent and dependent variables were it-
eratively excluded from the model in order to increase model fit. Following the
suggestions of the modification indices analysis, correlations between indepen-
dent variables and control variables (e.g. age, intensity of participation) as well
as regressive relationships between dependent variables (e.g. tolerance on com-
mon good orientation) were included to further increase model fit. As post-hoc
improvements of the model limits the generalizability of the data (Weston/Gore
2006), we only added relationships that were theoretically feasible and improved
the model fit substantially (χ2-decrease greater than 5).
6.1 Hypothesis Testing
The path model showed the following parameters of fit: χ2(df = 13, n = 609) =
22.11, p> .05, standardized root mean squared residual (SRMR) = .03, root mean
squared error of approximation (RMSEA) = .03, Tucker–Lewis Index (TLI) = 0.91,
Comparative Fit Index (CFI) = .98. The model fit measures, with exception of TLI
(recommended cuto value > 0.95), were all within the recommended margins for
a good model fit (Hu/Bentler 1999, 27). Thus, the model was accepted.
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What Do Participants Take Away from Local eParticipation? |19
Fig. 2: Path Model; Note: Only significant eects; sex (male 1 / female 2).
The path analysis presented in figure 2 shows the tests for direct and moderated ef-
fects controlling for age, sex, and level of education.³Hypothesis 1 postulated that
intensity of local eParticipation would positively aect the perception of partici-
pative eects. Intensity of participation in fact promoted the perception of partic-
ipative eects on two dimensions, tolerance and common good orientation: The
more active the subjects were in local eParticipation, the more they perceived that
what they were doing took into consideration the other citizens in the sense of a
common good orientation (β= .15; p.001). Tolerance (i.e. accepting diverse and
often opposing perspectives) was as well fostered by the intensity of participation
(β= .14; p.001). However, internal political ecacy and legitimacy, the other two
perceptions of participative eects, were not aected by the intensity of participa-
tion. The data therefore partly support H1.
The findings show that socio-demographic factors both promoted as well as
hindered the perception of participative eects. High educated participants per-
ceived less legitimacy (β= -.16; p.001) and common good orientation (β= -.08;
p.05) than less educated participants. Further, internal political ecacy was
3For the stake of the analysis, the education variable was included as metrical variable given
the quasi-hierarchical order of the dierent educational degrees measured.
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20 |Dennis Frieß and Pablo Porten-Cheé
rather perceived by female than by male participants (β= .11; p.01). The age
variable presented mixed eects: On the one hand, internal political ecacy was
lower among older participants (or higher among younger ones) while on the
other hand, elder participants experienced more common good orientation as par-
ticipative eect than younger ones. These findings partly contrast previous stud-
ies that mainly point to the reverse view: elderly, highly educated men were the
most likely to participate in politics. Altogether, when only the significant eect
sizes were compared, taking part at eParticipation activities accounts for a similar
influence on perceiving participative eects as socio-demographic factors.
We suggested that some factors, drawn from previous participation studies,
would moderate the eects of participation activity on perceived participatory
eects. We assume that when reasoning about the democratic value of one’s own
participation on online platforms, easy-accessible general political cognitions
would be activated for such assessments. Thus, we first suggested that the in-
tensity of participation stronger promotes perceived internal political ecacy
the higher the previous level of general political ecacy is (H2). The data do not
indicate such an eect and thus do not support H2. Nonetheless, the interaction
between general political ecacy and eParticipation increased the participative
perception eect of tolerance (β= .12; p.01). Further, according to H3, subjects
should perceive a more legitimate political process when their participatory activ-
ities were accompanied by high satisfaction with politics in general. However, the
findings do not support H3. Finally, H4 stated that a favorable attitude toward par-
ticipation together with extensive participation in the online budget consultation
platforms would promote the perception of all participatory eects. The related
findings show that when high degrees of eParticipation were matched with a pos-
itive attitude toward participation in general, the subjects did not perceive more
or less participatory eects. Thus, our data do not support H4.
The path analysis accounted for low to considerable proportions of explained
variances: for internal political ecacy: R2= .04, for legitimacy: R2= .27, for toler-
ance: R2= .09, and for common good orientation: R2= .09. Taken together, our find-
ings support the presumption that the intensity of participation directly promotes
the perception of participatory eects. This direct eect becomes clear when tol-
erance and common good orientation were considered as democratic value expe-
riences but not or less clear for the other two dimensions, legitimacy and internal
political ecacy. Cognitive factors that may play a role when assessing the demo-
cratic eects of eParticipation did not, in contrast to the assumptions posited, in-
tervene in the relationship between eParticipation and the experience of demo-
cratic eects.
From a more explorative perspective however, the data point to some rela-
tions that may need theoretical underpinning. Although the perceived participa-
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What Do Participants Take Away from Local eParticipation? |21
tive eects were theoretically independent concepts, some findings point to strik-
ing causal relationships between them: Internal political ecacy perception af-
fected all other three perceptions and foremost the legitimacy perception (β= .47;
p.001). In contrast, internal political ecacy hindered to perceive a common
good orientation (β= -.12; p.01). Legitimacy promoted tolerance (β= .11; p.05)
and tolerance itself catalyzed the perception of common good orientation (β= .16;
Against the background of increasing eParticipation opportunities at the local
level, this paper addressed the question of how the intensity of individual lo-
cal eParticipation aects the users’ perception of participatory eects drawn from
normative theories of democracy. Furthermore, we asked which cognitive factors
moderate the relationship between intense eParticipation and the perception of
participatory eects. Therefore, four participatory eects—internal political e-
cacy, common good orientation, tolerance, and legitimacy—were drawn from the-
oretical literature in order to evaluate eParticipation from a democratic citizens’
perspective. We argued that this democratic perspective from a citizens’ point of
view is especially relevant when it comes to the question of whether eParticipa-
tion is the right pill to cure the democratic malaise, which is a frequent narrative
in the literature (Coleman 2005; Wright 2012).
We found that the intensity of eParticipation directly influences the users’
perceptions regarding common good orientation and tolerance, while the percep-
tions of legitimacy and political ecacy did not seem to be directly influenced by
the intensity of participation. While eParticipation solely aected tolerance, only
socio-demographic factors accounted for eects on internal political ecacy and
legitimacy. For eParticipation, these findings could indicate that it has a unique
potential to induce desirable eects which benefit some democratic value experi-
ences. However, other aspects of democratic value experiences may be immune to
newer modes of participation but may rather depend on invariant personal char-
acteristics or previous involvement in traditional modes of participation. The ev-
idence for catalytic eParticipation eects on democratic value experiences is in
line with deliberative and participatory theories that participation itself will have
a positive eect on dierent democratic qualities of those participating. Given the
beneficial eects of involving in online political action on common good orien-
tation and tolerance, local eParticipation is perhaps an option for governments
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22 |Dennis Frieß and Pablo Porten-Cheé
to foster community integration in a time of a growing fear of public polarization
regarding controversial issues (Prior 2013).
In addition, we found hardly any evidence that cognitive factors promoted
the eParticipation eect on democratic value experiences, which somehow con-
tradicts findings of the previous digital divide research (Norris 2001; Wright 2012).
Only general political ecacy together with an intense eParticipation promoted
tolerance perceptions. This finding is in line with other studies in the field of polit-
ical participation, which found that ecacy is an important predictor for political
participation (Balch 1974). However, in light of our data, cognitive predispositions
make little dierence in terms of whether people feel politically empowered due
to eParticipation. As in the same time eParticipation did fuel democratic value
experiences, this is good news. eParticipation may to a certain extent act as cura-
tive and thus could be an answer to the perceived crisis of democracy—and more
crucial—for all individuals involved in online political activity similarly. Neverthe-
less, the finding that the participative perception of legitimacy was not aected
by getting involved in eParticipation activities contradicts the argument raised by
several scholars that participation in politics is the right pill to cure the legitimacy
crisis (Barber 1984; Coleman 2005). However, all these findings have to be inter-
preted with great caution due to the sample issue of this study.
Thinking of theoretical implications of our study, the role of internal political
ecacy might need reconsideration as it aected all other perceptions of partici-
pative eects. Internal political ecacy is probably more accessible than the other
perceptions of participative eects and therefore may aect the other perceptions
of participative eects beforehand. If this was true, the status of internal political
ecacy as dimension of participative eects would have to be reassessed and the
variable would have to be displaced in a more specific explanatory model where
internal political ecacy would possibly function as moderator between ePartic-
ipation and perceived participative eects.
In summary, we conclude deliberately vague that the intensity of eParticipa-
tion has a partial but considerable and sometimes even unique eect on the per-
ception of participative eects tolerance and common good orientation, and is
therefore likely to foster democratic value experiences. However, legitimacy and
political ecacy were not directly aected by the intensity of online participation.
The examined moderating factors hardly influence whether participants perceive
democratic eects through local eParticipation. However, aside from these find-
ings, which should not be over-interpreted for several reasons addressed later, we
want to highlight the theoretical approach presented in this paper. By using nor-
mative theory assumptions in relation to desirable outcomes of political partici-
pation, we attempted to improve the evaluation of democratic innovations, such
as eParticipation, from a democratic perspective. Therefore, we focused on the ad-
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What Do Participants Take Away from Local eParticipation? |23
dressees, the citizens, and investigated their democratic value experience. Since
a frequently discussed aim of eParticipation services implemented by local gov-
ernments is to improve democracy in general, and democratic decision making
in particular, we argued that research on democratic outcomes on the individual
level is a worthwhile task in the future. However, we acknowledge that the four in-
dicators drawn from the theoretical literature are replaceable and that there may
be other indicators that may appear more appropriate (Lippa et al. 2008; Macin-
tosh/Whyte 2008).
Our research is subject to several limitations. We will address six of them and
point towards further research opportunities. The first major limitation concerns
the quality of the survey sample and therefore the generalizability of the find-
ings. Due to the self-selected character of our sample and the overrepresentation
of male and highly educated individuals, we have to be very careful in interpret-
ing the findings. Since we know from previous research that male and highly ed-
ucated individuals are more likely to participate online, our sample seems biased
when it comes to gender distribution and education. We are aware of this sample
limitation, and therefore do not overestimate the results as apt to be transferable
without restrictions. Further research may overcome this major issue by dierent
sampling methods and possibilities.
The next limitation concerns the theoretical approach used in this research.
From a theoretical perspective, it must be mentioned that most participatory
and deliberative theories suppose a powerful conception of citizen participa-
tion, which means that participation is meant to influence the final decision in a
meaningful way. Since we analyzed the case of two online public budgeting con-
sultations, which transparently indicated that citizen arguments and ideas would
be consultative in nature and the final decision was reserved for the city council,
we could face the problem of theoretical incoherency. Bearing this limitation in
mind, further research may investigate dierences in the perception of participa-
tory eects by focusing on dierent types and levels of participation (Finkel 1987).
Arnstein’s (1969) ‘ladder of participation’ or the dierentiation between strong
and weak publics (Fung 2003) may provide fruitful grounds for such research.
There is also a limitation concerning the theoretically postulated eects of
participation and the research design we chose. It could be argued that studies
investigating eects that accrue from a specific action (e.g. media use or the use
of eParticipation services) must use a panel or experimental design in which mea-
surement takes place at two distinct points of time: before and after the treatment.
This is true, and we therefore emphasize that we did not aim to measure eects
in this sense but rather aimed to investigate whether individuals experienced par-
ticipatory eects based on their participation from a subjective perspective on the
perceptional level. However, future research could overcome this limitation by us-
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24 |Dennis Frieß and Pablo Porten-Cheé
ing experimental or panel designs in order to clearly investigate whether people
benefit from eParticipation in relation to democratic eects.
A further limitation arises from not considering the particular design and con-
texts of the two consultation platforms. Since research on online participation and
online deliberation suggests that design is able to shape the users’ commenting
behavior (Esau/Frieß/Eilders 2017; Jansen/Kies 2005) it is also likely to assume
that users’ democratic experience is influenced by certain design features. How-
ever, since both platforms where setup by the same service contractor and hence
contained similar applications, design eects are not likely to accrue. Neverthe-
less, further research should focus in more detail on the eect of design and the
context of dierent eParticipation projects.
When looking on the eect of the intensity of participation on the perceptions
of participatory eects, our study included several intervening factors known
in the literature. However, even though political interest is known for being
positively associated with political engagement (e.g. (Sotirovic/McLeod 2001;
Verba/Schlozman/Brady 1995; Neuman 1986) we opted not to include interest
in politics as potential moderator for two reasons. We wanted to avoid multi-
collinearity between the independent variables, most likely between satisfaction
with politics, attitudes towards participation, general political ecacy and inter-
est in politics. We instead decided to include education as a key factor because
it provides the ground for interest in politics but at the same time, it is detached
from it. That said, our argumentation does not suggest to exclude interest in poli-
tics as intervening factor in similar inquiries, but only in such where close-related
and more specific variables are available as well.
Finally, our research design did not consider the process of communication
that took place on the eParticipation platforms and therefore treated participa-
tion as a blackbox rather than a communication event. Deliberative theories argue
that communication must meet certain criteria to unfold its productive power and
therefore foster beneficial outcomes (Habermas 1996). Accordingly, the quality of
the discourse is of major relevance and thus needs to be conceptualized as inde-
pendent variable that influences the outcomes. Future research should follow the
examples that focused on the relationship between processes of communication
and their eect on deliberation outcomes in order to assess the eects of partici-
pation more comprehensively (Stromer-Galley/Muhlberger 2009).
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What Do Participants Take Away from Local eParticipation? |25
The potential of local eParticipation has been the subject of intensive empirical
inquiry in recent years. We contribute to this strand of research by investigat-
ing whether the intensity of eParticipation aects a user’s assessment of certain
democratic eects described in the literature on participatory and deliberative
theory. Findings show that participants perceive at least the democratic values of
tolerance and common good orientation. This is good news for democratic govern-
ments which are increasingly confronted with tendencies of social polarization.
Although the empirical findings are limited due to the above-mentioned reasons,
the theoretical conception of perceived participatory eects from a democratic
perspective as proposed in this paper may serve to stimulate and guide further
research, which should shed light on how dierent forms of eParticipation can
improve democracy in particular at the local level.
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This study focuses on the factors influencing the intention of citizens to be involved in participatory budgeting (PB) on the municipal level via different electronic communication channels. Having classified such factors based on a literature review, we construct a comprehensive model of citizens’ participation in electronic PB (e-PB) which comprises the following three blocks of factors: (1) citizens’ attitude towards electronic communication with public authorities; (2) citizens’ social capital (as related to their municipality); (3) citizens’ motivation to participate in e-PB. To empirically verify interconnections and influence of different factors on citizens’ involvement in e-PB, we conducted a survey. To this end, we developed a questionnaire to poll the inhabitants of the Yuzhno-Primorskiy municipality of St. Petersburg. Using the collected information on 259 respondents, the developed model was estimated using the partial least squares structural equation modeling approach (PLS-SEM). We demonstrate that citizens’ motivation has the highest, statistically significant influence on the intention of people to be involved in PB. The found mediation effects allowed to confirm the influence of social capital and attitude towards electronic communication on citizens’ motivation to participate in e-PB. Based on the obtained results, we provide relevant recommendations for the administration of the Yuzhno-Primorskiy municipality, which are expected to help the authorities more actively involve the citizens of the municipality in participatory budgeting.
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Zusammenfassung Das Internet hat die Möglichkeiten zur Konfliktaustragung radikal verändert. Insbesondere soziale Medien eröffnen agonistische Arenen, in denen konträre Positionen aufeinanderprallen. Obgleich die theoretische Konzeption des Internets als agonistische Sphäre nicht neu ist, liegen bisher kaum inhaltsanalytische Instrumente vor, die eine ganzheitliche Betrachtung agonistischer Diskursstrukturen ermöglichen. Der Beitrag will diese Lücke schließen, indem er einen Vorschlag zur Operationalisierung von Agonismus unterbreitet. Er wirbt damit gleichsam für einen Perspektivenwechsel bei der Analyse politischer Online-Kommunikation vor dem Hintergrund aktueller Debatten zu digitalen Öffentlichkeiten. Während deliberative Theorien von einem verständigungsorientierten Kommunikationsmodus ausgehen, an dessen Ende prinzipiell eine Form von Konsens möglich ist, stehen im Agonismus Konflikt, Gegnerschaft, Hegemonie, kollektive Identitäten und Leidenschaften im Vordergrund. Vor dem Hintergrund der Arbeiten von Chantal Mouffe arbeitet der Beitrag diese theoretischen Dimensionen heraus. Mit Blick auf bisherige Online-Kommunikationsforschung wird argumentiert, dass das Internet vielerorts agonistische Kommunikationsräume eröffnet, die es weiter zu analysieren gilt. Daran anschließend wird eine inhaltsanalytische Operationalisierung vorgeschlagen und im Rahmen einer Fallstudie illustriert. Die Ergebnisse einer Inhaltanalyse von 945 Nutzerkommentaren auf den Facebook-Seiten der im Bundestag vertretenen Parteien zeigen, dass das vorgeschlagene Instrument geeignet ist, um agonistische Diskursstrukturen zu identifizieren und zu analysieren. Der Beitrag diskutiert abschließend das vorgestellte Instrument und skizziert eine agonistische Forschungsagenda, wobei die Deliberationsforschung als Inspiration genutzt wird.
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Die zunehmende Beteiligung von Bürger*innen zielt auf eine kommunikative Legitimierung politischer Entscheidungen. Vor dem Hintergrund dieser These erläutert der Beitrag Deliberation als anspruchsvolle Form der Öffentlichkeitsbeteiligung. Dafür wird in die Grundannahmen deliberativer Theorien eingeführt und Einblicke in realweltliche Deliberationsformate (Deliberative Mini-Publics) gegeben. Anschließend werden empirische Erkenntnisse zu den Wirkungen deliberativer Öffentlichkeitsbeteiligung zusammengetragen ehe schließlich praktische Empfehlungen gegeben werden, um zu zeigen, wie Partizipationspraktiker*innen deliberative Formate sinnvoll nutzen können.
The participatory budgeting as a part of e-Government becomes powerful approach that helps citizens to solve issues in the local area with support from government. Implementation of the participatory budgeting in new areas as well as its development is existing ones requires analysis of successful cases integrated with survey of local citizens. The paper addresses to the development of an approach that can be used to conduct surveys, analyze results and get statistics in semi-automatic way. Starting with an overview of top analytical tools, this paper identifies requirements and presents data-analysis system prototype. The prototype is focused on providing information space to analyze data. Data is gathered from various public and government information systems including surveys on participatory budgeting conducted by the governments. The system introduces data processing mechanics decisive for deeper data understanding. The paper also demonstrates prototype microservice architecture, including reasoning for each chosen technology. Prototype was evaluated on the survey conducted in Saint Petersburg municipality.
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en Research in communication and political science has underlined the relevance of participation offline and online for the performance and stability of democratic societies, and shown that media has a substantial impact on people's willingness to participate in political discourses. However, the impact of visual message features, prevalent in contemporary online environments, on political participation online remains unclear and needs further research. This article examines two research questions: How and under what conditions do digital news media images trigger political online participation? Which roles do specific image features (“photo news factors” such as negativity, emotionality, visual attraction, or saliency) play in this respect? Based on an experimental study integrating eyetracking measurement, our empirical analysis reveals that individuals are more willing to politically participate online, if they perceive news media images with specific “photo news factors”: press photography individuals acknowledge as surprising, emotional, attractive, newsworthy, that is geographically proximal, controversial, relevant, or salient. We also find that the sensory perception of news media images can cause a positive and significant impact. If the media image is regarded as being newsworthy or as negative by individual recipients, they are more likely to then engage in online participation. Abstract zh 传播和政治学方面的研究强调了线下和线上政治参与对民主社会的表现与稳定的相关性, 并表明, 媒体对人们参与政治话语的意愿度发挥了巨大影响。然而, 当代网络环境中盛行的视觉信息特征, 对线上政治参与产生的影响依然不够清晰, 需要进一步研究。本文检验了两个研究问题: 数字新闻媒体图片如何、以及在什么条件下能触发线上政治参与?特定图片特征(“图片新闻因素”例如消极性、情感性、视觉吸引或突出性)在这方面发挥了什么作用?基于一项整合眼动追踪测量的实验研究, 我们的实证分析显示, 个人更愿意参与线上政治, 如果其感知的新闻媒体图片带有特定图片特征: 新闻摄影被认为是出乎意料的、感性的、有吸引力的、具有报道价值的, 且新闻摄影具备地方性、争议性、相关性或突出性。我们还发现, 对新闻媒体图片的感知能造成积极且显著的影响。如果媒体图片被个人视为具有报道价值或消极性, 他们则更有可能参与线上政治。 Abstract es La investigación en comunicación y ciencias políticas ha subrayado la relevancia de la participación fuera de línea y en línea para el desempeño y la estabilidad de las sociedades democráticas y ha demostrado que los medios de comunicación tienen un impacto sustancial en la disposición de las personas a participar en discursos políticos. Sin embargo, el impacto de las características del mensaje visual, frecuente en los entornos en línea contemporáneos, sobre la participación política en línea sigue sin estar claro y necesita más investigación. Este artículo examina dos preguntas de investigación: ¿Cómo y bajo qué condiciones las imágenes de los medios digitales de noticias desencadenan la participación política en línea? ¿Qué roles desempeñan las características específicas de la imagen ("factores de noticias fotográficas" como la negatividad, la emocionalidad, la atracción visual o la prominencia) a este respecto? Basado en un estudio experimental que integra la medición de seguimiento ocular, nuestro análisis empírico revela que las personas están más dispuestas a participar políticamente en línea, si perciben imágenes de los medios de comunicación con características de imagen específicas: fotografía de prensa que reconocen como sorprendente, emocional, atractiva, de interés periodístico, eso es geográficamente proximal, controvertido, relevante o irrelevante. También encontramos que la percepción sensorial de las imágenes de los medios de comunicación puede causar un impacto positivo y significativo. Si un destinatario individual considera que la imagen de los medios es de interés periodístico o negativa, es más probable que participe en la participación en línea.
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This article takes stock of the growing field of online deliberation research. Our review of the theoretical and empirical findings is guided by a framework encompassing the three relevant components of deliberation: the institutional design that enables and fosters deliberation (institutional input: “design”), the quality of the communication process (communicative throughput: “process”), and the expected results of deliberation (productive outcome: “results”). Our findings show that scholarly attention is unevenly distributed across the different components of the framework. Most research has focused on the quality of the online discussion (process). A fair amount of research has focused on the institutional conditions fostering deliberation (design), while the outcomes of online deliberation processes (results) have mostly been neglected. This picture is repeated in terms of the causal relations between design, process, and results of deliberation: Most studies have dealt with the effects of the platform design on the degree of deliberation (design-process). Much less is known about how the process of deliberation shapes the outcomes of deliberation (process-results). Studies investigating all three aspects of deliberation and their causal links (design-process-results) are particularly rare.
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emic circles as Amitai Etzioni's latest manifesto on communitarian politics,' which has finally been published in Britain, more than two years after its initial publication in the United States of America.2 The interest in communitarianism in Britain has grown significantly over the past year. Communitarianism began as a philosophical critique of liberalism and its excesses in neo-liberal political rationality and libertarian legal philosophy.3 As such, communitarianism identified a number of salient philosophical contradictions and ambiguities, with close parallels to some European critical theory.4 As an explicit rejection of New Right politics, Etzioni, and communitarians more generally, have met with a favourable reception within the Labour Party, as it seeks to redefine itself under the leadership of Tony Blair.5 'New Labour' has seized upon The Spirit of Community as offering something which lies between the untamed 'market' and the outof-favour ideals of'socialist social solidarity'. In this book, Etzioni attempts to go beyond critique and to set out a positive vision of communitarian politics. Consequently, it is a bold, although unfinished, piece of work. It is, however, one which is trapped within a number of empirical, philosophical and political solecisms. The book comes with a very short, four-page preface to the British edition, which identifies a host of prominent people, from across the political spectrum, who claim to have been inspired by it. This should immediately alert the wary or cynical reader as to how an agenda can appeal simultaneously to such diverse interests. The book is divided into three broad
‘Religion and politics’, as the old saying goes, ‘should never be discussed in mixed company.’And yet fostering discussions that cross lines of political difference has long been a central concern of political theorists. More recently, it has also become a cause célèbre for pundits and civic-minded citizens wanting to improve the health of American democracy. But only recently have scholars begun empirical investigations of where and with what consequences people interact with those whose political views differ from their own. Hearing the Other Side examines this theme in the context of the contemporary United States. It is unique in its effort to link political theory with empirical research. Drawing on her empirical work, Mutz suggests that it is doubtful that an extremely activist political culture can also be a heavily deliberative one.
Abstract Deliberative democratic theory has moved beyond the “theoretical statement” stage and into the “working theory” stage. Although this essay revisits some of the main theoretical debates, this is done via a survey and evaluation of the state of deliberative democratic theory as it is being applied in a number of research areas and as it intersects with related normative debates. Five research areas are covered: public law, international relations, policy studies, empirical research, and identity politics.
Participatory democrats hold that when individuals participate in democratic processes they are likely to become more tolerant of differences, more attuned to reciprocity, better able to engage in moral discourse and judgment, and more prone to examine their own preferences. These democratic dispositions in turn strengthen democratic processes. Notwithstanding the centrality of this self-transformation thesis to democratic theory, Jürgen Habermas remains the only democratic theorist to have developed an account of transformative processes. This he does by linking democratic discourse to individual development of critical capacities for political judgment, or autonomy. Habermas's account, however, requires reconstruction, since he for the most part addresses his ideas to problems other than those of democratic theory. Such a reconstruction suggests that the self-transformation thesis needs to be qualified: political contexts may elicit, rather than overcome, psychodynamic barriers to autonomy. This and related considerations suggest that democratic transformations of the self are more likely in some kinds of democratic contexts than others.
I need hardly remind this audience that one of the characteristics of our field is the large number of old and quite elemental questions—elemental but by no means elementary—for which we have no compelling answers. I don't mean that we have no answers to these questions. On the contrary, we often have a rich variety of conflicting answers. But no answer compels acceptance in the same way as a proof of a theorem in mathematics, or a very nice fit between a hypothesis and a satisfactory set of data. Whether the obstacles that prevent us from achieving tight closure on solutions lie in ourselves—our approaches, methods, and theories—or are inherent in the problems is, paradoxically, one of these persistent and elemental questions for which we have a number of conflicting answers. For whatever it may be worth, my private hunch is that the main obstacles to closure are in the problems themselves—in their extraordinary complexity, the number and variety of variables, dimensions qualities, and relationships, and in the impediments to observation and data-gathering. However that may be, a question of this sort often lies dormant for decades or even centuries, not because it has been solved but because it seems irrelevant. For even when no satisfactory theoretical answer exists to a very fundamental question, historical circumstances may allow it to be ignored for long periods of time. Even specialists may refuse to take a question seriously that history seems to have shoved into the attic. What seem like fundamental controversies in one age are very likely to be boring historical curiosities in the next. And conversely it is my impression that a great many of the elemental political questions regarded as settled in one age have a way of surfacing later on.