Understanding deliberation: The effects of discussion networks on participation in a public forum

Jack M. McLeod, Dietram A. Scheufele, Moy Patricia, Edward M. Horowitz, R. Lance Holbert, Weiwu Zhang, Stephen Zubric, Jessica Zubric

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

186 Scopus citations


Participation in a deliberative forum has received relatively little scrutiny as opposed to more traditional forms of participation. This study examines direct and indirect effects of discussion network characteristics on willingness to participate in a deliberative forum. Using data collected in a telephone survey of 416 respondents in Madison, Wisconsin, in the fall of 1997, the authors employ structural equation modeling techniques to explore the roles that local media use, interpersonal discussion of local politics, and reflection of information play in mediating the relationship between discussion networks and participation in public forums. Findings show that network heterogeneity directly influences forum participation, suggesting that membership in heterogeneous networks ensures greater nontraditional participation. Also, having more discussion partners makes frequent discussion of issues and higher levels of local public affairs media use more likely. Communication processes lead to reflection about local issues, which enhances forum participation. Finally, normative implications are addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)743-774
Number of pages32
JournalCommunication Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1999


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