Deliberative democratic theorists and public participation scholars have become increasingly interested in institutionalized forms of citizen discourse with the state, including those facilitated by information technology. However, there have been very few empirical studies of the claims that the Internet will make public participation more inclusive and deliberative. We report the results of an exploratory survey of 1,556 citizen participants in regulatory public comment processes in the United States. Our analysis focuses on the differences in deliberative indicators between those who submitted their comments using newly available electronic tools and those who postal mailed or faxed letters on paper. We also examine differences between those who submitted an original letter and those who submitted a version of a mass-mailed form letter. Overall, the data found modest evidence of the presence of deliberative democratic practices. More interesting are the apparently fundamental differences between citizens who submit original comments and those who submit form letters. We discuss the implications of these findings as they relate to the use of information technology to increase government-citizen deliberation.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/stuart_shulman/4/