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The Quality of Deliberation in Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly

Fri, August 31, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Marriott, Yarmouth


The empirical study of mini-publics is by now well established, but it is only relatively recently that the focus has turned to getting inside the ‘black box’ of the deliberative process itself – to analyse the quality of the deliberative process. This paper reports on an analysis of the quality of deliberation throughout the five topics that the Irish Citizens’ Assembly was asked to consider – abortion, ageing, climate change, fixed-term parliaments, and the referendum process – which represent a mix of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ topics. Two main sources of data are examined: a coding of the video streams of the plenary discussions of the CA (using measures of cognitive complexity), and the analysis of data gathered from surveys of the citizen members at each meeting that sought to measure their perceptions of discourse quality. The main themes to be considered in this paper include: variations in deliberative quality among different actors in the plenary sessions; variations across different types of topics; and variations based on demographic and attitudinal differences among the citizen members.