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Reconsidering the Role of Procedures for Decision Acceptance

Journal article
Authors Peter Esaiasson
Mikael J Persson
Mikael Gilljam
Torun Lindholm
Published in British Journal of Political Science
Volume 49
Issue 1
Pages 291-314
ISSN 0007-1234
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 291-314
Language en
Keywords procedural fairness; decision acceptance; experiments
Subject categories Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


Procedural fairness theory posits that the way in which authoritative decisions are made strongly impacts people’s willingness to accept them. This article challenges this claim by contending that democratic governments can achieve little in terms of acceptance of policy decisions by the procedural means at their disposal. Instead, outcome favorability is the dominant determinant of decision acceptance. The article explicates that while central parts of procedural fairness theory are true, outcome favorability is still overwhelmingly the strongest determinant of individuals’ willingness to accept authoritative decisions. It improves on previous research by locating all key variables into one causal model and testing this model using appropriate data. Findings from a large number of experiments (both vignette and field) reproduce the expected relationships from previous research and support the additional predictions.

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