The EUENGAGE project sought to bridge the alleged gap between citizens and elites in Europe by designing and implementing an online deliberation experiment. This event, renamed e-VOICE (EUENGAGE Virtual Open Interaction for Communities’ Engagement), matched the need for an improved interaction – both among citizens and between people and politicians – with the need for an informed environment where to discuss the main challenges (in immigration, security and the economy) that Europe is currently facing.
From October 17 to the 27, 2016, about 350 citizens from 10 European countries (Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom) joined the e-VOICE online platform. For each country, people were randomly assigned to one out of three national groups each composed of about 10 members. During the e-VOICE event, people could express their opinions and confront their views by posting their comments on the discussion threads provided by the platform. Citizens also had the opportunity to ask questions to experts, who provided insightful answers and clarifications to citizens’ queries. Participants have also been involved in two games designed to make people decide on principles of redistributive justice and mechanisms of cooperation in democratic societies. Then, 20 groups out of 30 received a video-message from a national politician regarding the three issues under discussion. Participants had the opportunity to react to such messages and to ask questions to politicians. Politicians’ answers were collected and posted in the platform. At the end of the event, participants were given the opportunity to formulate policy proposals addressing the immigration, economic and security crises, these proposals have been transmitted to politicians. See more at E-Voice page.
The e-VOICE event has been shortlisted for the European Excellence Awards in Public Affairs, whose awarding ceremony took place in Brussels on May 31, 2017.
The e-VOICE experiment provided a considerable amount of data. Two questionnaires, administered to participants before and after the e-VOICE event, explored people’s opinions on the three debated issues (immigration, economy and security) and on broader issues of political participation and representation. Along with survey data, the UNISI research team collected policy proposals and participants’ verbatim of comments posted in the platform, as well as the transcripts of the video-messages sent by politicians. The UNISI research team is currently analyzing these data, which represent a precious source of information to investigate how opinions on these issues are shaped by discussion, information and the exchange of arguments. Data collected during the event represent a precious source of information to understand the rationale behind policy proposals and political discussion. With its multinational approach, e-VOICE is likely to represent a benchmark in the design and implementation of virtual spaces of public confrontation.
The research team at UNISI is leading the analyses that will result in publications to be presented in international conferences and submitted to leading journals in political science.