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Title The effect of losing (repeatedly) in direct democratic decisions on loser’s consent
Post date 12/07/2018
C1 Background and Explanation of Rationale

Various scholars, but also policy makers and activists have claimed that an increased involvement of citizens in the political decision-making process could serve as a remedy to counter the alleged loss of legitimacy of representative politics (Tormey, 2015). It has been argued that by involving citizens more directly in the decision-making process, a better congruence between citizens’ preferences and public policy can be achieved (Budge, 1996) and citizens’ consent can be fostered. However, the making of voting directly on policy issues is polarizing in nature and generates exclusion (Warren 2017). It seems therefore surprising that little is known about loser’s consent in direct democratic decision making.

In the scope of representative democracy, loser’s consent has attracted much scholarly attention in the past decade. The existing literature has extensively documented that legitimacy perceptions differ significantly between electoral winners and losers (Linde and Ekman 2003). Nevertheless, this “legitimacy gap” is not considered problematic as long as there are relatively frequent alternations in power. Losing repeatedly, however, is claimed to deteriorate legitimacy perceptions, because the representative system fails continuously to turn certain groups of citizens (and their policy preferences) into winners (Anderson et al. 2005). Losing repeatedly arguably corresponds to an exclusion from the political power system (Kern and Kölln 2017; Lijphart, 1999).

Despite this fairly large body of research on this “winner-loser gap”, it remains unclear whether such a gap can be found in direct-democratic procedures where citizens are directly deciding on policy issues. By focusing on losers consent in the making of direct democratic decisions, the aim of this study is therefore to 1) investigate whether such a “legitimacy gap” between winners and (repeated) losers can also be found after direct-democratic decision making and 2) to explore the nature of such a potential “legitimacy gap.”

C2 What are the hypotheses to be tested?

H1: Legitimacy beliefs of winners are stronger than legitimacy beliefs of losers after direct democratic decision-making.
H2a: Legitimacy beliefs of occasional losers are stronger than legitimacy beliefs of repeated losers after several rounds of direct democratic decision-making.
H2b: Legitimacy beliefs of consecutive losers are stronger than legitimacy beliefs of discontinuous losers after several rounds of direct democratic decision-making.
H3: The gap between winners and losers is asymmetric, as losing hurts more than winning eases.
H4: The effect of all types of losing is moderated by citizens’ degree of news consumption. The more aware they are of current political issues, the less credible they may find losing in the voting study.

C3 How will these hypotheses be tested? *

The hypotheses will be tested via an online experiment. The online study consists of a survey. The survey has four parts. First, we will measure the baseline attitudes of the subjects with regards to political trust, satisfaction with democracy, political ideology and partisanship. Second, participants will vote on three specific policy issues. Third, participants are exposed to the treatment: we will announce – one by one – how the other participants of the experiment answered the three questions on the policy issues. We tell the subjects ‘a simple majority of people participating in this survey online have made a decision over this question and the decision is…’. Subjects are either informed that the mostly voted policy choice is consistent or inconsistent with their own decision. Although this part is manipulated and unreal, we randomly and independently assign this decision to participants. In other words, participants will be randomly assigned to the winners or the losers of the policy decision. After each announcement of the result we will ask some questions regarding participants’ decision acceptance and process perceptions. The same procedure is repeated for the other two policy decisions. Since the main aim behind this study is to measure how losing (repeatedly) affects citizens’ legitimacy perceptions with this exercise we want to introduce the sense of ‘losing’ and ‘winning’ among participants. But as we do not know beforehand whether a subject will ‘lose’ or ‘win’, i.e. the process is purely random, the only deception we use here is when the respondents are informed about the ‘results’ of the hypothetical voting. Citizens will be debriefed about it at the end of the study. Further, in the fourth part of the survey, participants will be asked to answer a set of questions, aimed at tapping in the effect of losing on their decisions to (a) leave the study; and (b) change the rules of the game. The third question will measure the state of the frustration the subject felt in finding out that the majority decision was inconsistent with his own decision. Since only one part of the subjects will be randomly assigned to ‘lose repeatedly’, some of these questions will be relevant to that sub-group only.
Difference-in-means t-tests will be run to examine the main effects of losing occasionally, losing repeatedly and winning repeatedly on citizens’ legitimacy perceptions. Additionally, we will run CACE (Complier Average Causal Effect) analysis with 2SLS (two stage least squares) instrumental approach, with the correct answer to manipulation check question as compliance. For heterogeneous effects (e.g. H4), linear regression models with interaction effects will be conducted.

C4 Country Ireland
C5 Scale (# of Units) N=2000
C6 Was a power analysis conducted prior to data collection? Yes
C7 Has this research received Insitutional Review Board (IRB) or ethics committee approval? Yes
C8 IRB Number G-2017 11 977
C9 Date of IRB Approval 23/10/2018
C10 Will the intervention be implemented by the researcher or a third party? Researchers
C11 Did any of the research team receive remuneration from the implementing agency for taking part in this research? not provided by authors
C12 If relevant, is there an advance agreement with the implementation group that all results can be published? not provided by authors
C13 JEL Classification(s) not provided by authors