Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck, Christiane Grill
From the Living Room to the Meeting Hall: Citizens’ Political Talk in the Deliberative System

Political Communication, 2020: 37, issue 6, pp. 832-851
ISSN: 1058-4609 (print), 1091-7675 (online)

Focusing on ordinary people’s political talk the paper contributes to the study of deliberative democracy from a systemic perspective. By examining citizens’ everyday communication, it focuses on an object that is rarely studied from a deliberative perspective, but crucial for the deliberative system’s democratic character. By investigating the couplings between different arenas of political talk between citizens, ranging from informal private, semi-public and public conversations to formalized discussions at public events, it provides evidence on the appropriateness of the systemic conception of deliberative democracy. Analyzing data from two highquality face-to-face surveys by means of structural equation modeling the paper demonstrates how these venues are connected to one another. The linkages between these discursive spheres create opportunities for bottom-up information flows from informal everyday conversations into formalized public discussions. To some extent, informal conversations also empower citizens for participation in these more demanding organized discussion events. Informal political conversations between strangers, a type of political talk largely neglected by extant research, emerge as a crucial nexus that funnels the motivational and capacity-building influence of everyday political talk within people’s social networks into active participation in formalized public discussions.