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Justifying hard decisions - a necessary evil in representative decision making

Research project
Pågående forskning
Project period
2018 - ongoing
Project owner
School of Public Administration

Financier
Swedish research Council (VR)

Short description

In order to govern successfully, democratically elected leaders must ensure that their decisions are accepted, or at least tolerated, by most citizens. This is a difficult task because elected leaders are often forced to make decisions that involve compromises or choices between legitimate interests and that are potentially controversial in the eyes of the public. In this project we explore the effect of how difficult decisions are explained and communicated by decision-makers for people's willingness to accept decisions.

In order to govern successfully, democratically elected leaders must ensure that their decisions are accepted, or at least tolerated, by most citizens. This is a difficult task because elected leaders are often forced to make decisions that involve compromises or choices between legitimate interests and that are potentially controversial in the eyes of the public.

Indeed, the question of how to make unfavorable authoritative decisions acceptable to citizens is fundamental for democratic legitimacy. In the project "Justifying hard decisions - a necessary evil in representative democracy," we explore the effect of how difficult decisions are explained and communicated by decision-makers for people's willingness to accept decisions. We use actual cases, where we have particularly focused on school closures, as well as interviews and surveys with decision-makers, and scenario experiments with citizens. Our preliminary results indicate that decision-makers could benefit from focusing more not only on the process leading up to a decision, but also on what the post-decision phase should look like.