Christiane Grill, Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck, Manon Metz
Studying the ‘Conversations of Democracy’: Research Design and Data Collection

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Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung: Arbeitspapiere; 173
68 S.
ISSN: 1437-8574

The MZES project ‘Conversations of Democracy’ (CoDem) addresses a major gap in the empirical study of deliberative politics. Although democratic theory's deliberative turn stimulated increasing interest in the role of talk for the quality of democratic politics, research has paid hardly any attention to ordinary citizens’ informal conversations about politics so far. No assured knowledge exists about how this form of political communication stands up to the high normative standards of deliberation. Likewise, there is no robust evidence on the factors that lead to a higher deliberative quality of everyday political talk, nor on whether everyday political talk actually entails the beneficial influences on the democratic process expected by deliberative theory. By investigating the deliberativeness as well as the conditions and consequences of everyday political talk, the project seeks to contribute to a deeper understanding of people's conversations about public affairs as the most basic form of political communication and foun-dation of democracy’s deliberative system. The paper offers an overview of the background, aims and rationale of the project. It discusses the research design and documents its implementation in detail. The methodological core of the project is a face-to-face survey of voters that was conducted during the run-up to the 2017 German federal election in the city of Mannheim. Two further design components are derivatives from this baseline survey: re-interviews of the same respondents in a second panel wave conducted via telephone several months after the election, and follow-up telephone or Web interviews with individuals whom the respondents named as their most important political discussion partners during the main interviews.