Understanding how much public deliberation is occurring in the United States and who is into discursive participation is critical. Equally important is the quality of the deliberative experience itself. What do the millions of Americans who report attending civic forums actually do, think, and feel during these meetings? Do deliberators perceive their fellow interlocutors as tolerant or as trampling on the viewpoints, interests, and values of individuals who are in the minority? Evaluating these and other questions about public talk requires an in-depth understanding of the actual experience of deliberators—the Americans we refer to as “street-level deliberators.” This chapter examines how Americans deliberate, with a particular focus on face-to-face forums and street-level deliberators. The survey provides strong evidence of a decisive tendency toward inclusive, reason-based, and agreement-oriented discourse. There are, however, some notable contradictions of the democratic expectations of deliberationists. For example, participants in civic forums tend to be drawn from somewhat higher levels of income and education, and to perceive other participants as more active than themselves.
Keywords: public talk; United States; public deliberation; discursive participation; forums; street-level deliberators; income; education
Chapter. 7349 words.
Subjects: US Politics
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