Back to overview


English title E-Democracy
Applicant Steenbergen Marco
Number 127230
Funding scheme ProDoc
Research institution Institut für Politikwissenschaft Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Political science
Start/End 01.08.2010 - 31.05.2013
Approved amount 172'488.00
Show all

Keywords (9)

e-democracy; participation; deliberation; electoral behaviour; e-voting; direct democracy; experiments; political psychology; information

Lay Summary (German)

Lay summary
Deliberation (argumentbasierte und respektvolle Diskussion) ist eine demokratische Innovation, um die Qualität der demokratischen Praxis zu verbessern. Das Hauptargument deliberativer Theorien ist, dass Deliberation besser informierte und respektvollere Bürgerinnen und Bürger produziert und zugleich die Legitimität demokratischer Entscheidungen in modernen und komplexen Gesellschaften erhöht.

Das Projekt führt deliberative online-Experimente zu zwei ausgewählten Volksabstimmungen in der Schweiz durch, nämlich zur Ausschaffungs- und zur Abzockerinitiative. Dabei wird zuerst eine repräsentative Umfrage durchgeführt, anschliessend werden die Teilnehmer eingeladen, am deliberativen online-Experiment teilnzunehmen. Ziel ist, institutionelle, psychologische und individuelle Voraussetzungen für deliberative Prozesse und Entscheidungen zu identifizieren. Konkret geht es die Wirkungen unterschiedlicher institutioneller Bedingungen (z.B. unterschiedlicher Diskussionsprozeduren), unterschiedlicher Gruppenzusammensetzung (z.B. Gruppen, in denen Minderheitsanliegen überrepräsentiert sind) sowie individueller Merkmale (z.B. deliberative Einstellungen oder Ambivalenz) auf die Qualität des Diskussionsprozesses sowie auf die Diskussionsergebnisse. Bezüglich Diskussionsprozess erforscht das Projekt die Qualität der Deliberation, wobei fokussiert wird auf die Komplexität und Gemeinwohlorientierung der vorgetragenen Argumente, den Respekt gegenüber anderen Meinungen und Personen sowie den Grad der Interaktivität (gegenseitige Bezugnahmen der TeilnehmerInnen). Bezüglich Diskussionsergebnissen untersucht das Projekt Meinungstransformationen, Empathie, Toleranz und Respekt.

Im Kontext der schweizerischen Abstimmungsdemokratie bilden die deliberativen online-Experimente eine Innovation: das Projekt will herausfinden, wie Schweizer Bürgerinnen und Bürger über ein politisches Thema entscheiden und denken würden, wenn sie darüber vernünftig und respektvoll diskutiert haben. Praktisches Ziel des Projekts ist, ein web-basiertes Tool für strukturierte Deliberation zu entwickeln, mit dem regelmässig Bürgerdiskussionen zu wichtigen direktdemokratischen Entscheidungen in der Schweiz durchgeführt werden können.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants



Deliberative Inclusion of Minorities: Patterns of Reciprocity among Linguistic Groups in Switzerland
Bächtiger André, Pedrini Seraina, Steenbergen Marco, Deliberative Inclusion of Minorities: Patterns of Reciprocity among Linguistic Groups in Switzerland, in European Political Science Review.
Information, Deliberation, and Direct Democracy: Evidence from the Swiss Expulsion Initiative
Steenbergen Marco, Bächtiger André, Pedrini Seraina, Gautschi Thomas, Information, Deliberation, and Direct Democracy: Evidence from the Swiss Expulsion Initiative, in Coleman Stephen, Przybylska Anna, Sintomer Yves (ed.), 17.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Deliberation: Values, Processes Institutions Talk given at a conference Deliberation, Information, and Direct Democracy: Evidence from the Swiss Expulsion Initiative 04.06.2012 Warsaw, Poland, Poland Steenbergen Marco;

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Public Discussion Round on the Expulsion Initiative 11.11.2010 Luzern, Switzerland Pedrini Seraina;

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Print (books, brochures, leaflets) Herausforderung Demokratie German-speaking Switzerland International 2013
Print (books, brochures, leaflets) Deliberation in Swiss Direct Democracy: A Field Experiment on the Expulsion Initiative German-speaking Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland International Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland 2011

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
126400 Ph.D. in Democracy Research 01.10.2009 ProDoc


For quite some time there has been a growing interest among scholars and practitioners in the virtues and challenges of e-democracy. The introduction of e-voting is on the agenda of the Swiss government, political issues are increasingly debated in blogs and on media websites and Barack Obama would probably not be president of the United States without his extensive and successful electronic campaign. Partly responsible for a boost in popularity is Web 2.0. Web-networks like Facebook are used to start campaigns against politicians (for example against Esther Maurer) or to start initiatives (like to one against Billag, a company which collects broadcasting fees, or against biometric passports). ICT definitely has its virtues but it has also become a real challenge to democracy. These are the reasons why we suggest a research module committed to e-democracy. Considering the huge number of activities belonging to the field of e-democracy we will - in this research module - concentrate in a first step on e-voting and on e-deliberation.The first PhD project we suggest looks at the voting advice application (VAA) smartvote. Since such VAAs are likely to become increasingly important and might one day get directly linked to e-voting the risk of abuse will also increase. The project will investigate how the voters use the smartvote website and how they make up their minds when it comes to selecting the party and the candidates they vote for. For the 2011 national elections a next version of smartvote will offer all the necessary features to fill in a voting list which could then be send to the polls. The project will analyze the use of the different features and the results they yield. This will not only help to develop minimal standards to guarantee non biased VAAs, but it will above of all offer a new research approach in the field of electoral behavior. The e-deliberation project will conduct and analyze deliberative online experiments on two se-lected topics of upcoming direct democratic votes in Switzerland (in 2010 and 2011). Switzerland with its extensive use of direct democracy provides excellent grounds for such experiments. The goal of the experiment is to identify institutional, psychological, and individual conditions that drive high quality deliberation (such as reasoned and respectful interaction) as well as desired normative outcomes (such as voter sophistication, preference transformation as well as meta-consensus and inter-subjective rationality). Additionally, the project will prepare the grounds for the set-up of a web-based tool which can be used in future direct democratic votes.We believe that such a research module is not only of great interest in itself but it fits also well into the NCCR “Challenges to Democracy in the 21st century”. It addresses a new and increa-singly important challenge to democracy which up to now could not be treated in an adequate manner by the NCCR and contributes to the more general research and transfer activities of the NCCR. The projects profit from empirical and normative findings of the NCCR and enrich the debates among its members. The thematic orientation is very much in line with the inter-national debate on e-participation which is one of the topics of the seventh framework program of the European Union. And, the result will be of great interest for the further development of such tools and for debates about a necessity of regulations.