Public Fairness Perceptions of Algorithmic Governance

with Sveinung Arnesen (Norce, University of Bergen, PI), James S. Fishkin (Stanford University), Mikael Poul Johannesson (Norce), Charlie Negri (Norce), Alice Siu (Stanford University)

funded by Research Council of Norway

Description This project studies what fairness perceptions citizens adhere to in relation to governance decisions based on algorithmic information processing, and how its use may affect democratic legitimacy. Such procedures are increasingly being introduced by government institutions to help making decisions that impact individual citizens on topics such as giving defendants parole, approving immigration applications, and determining eligibility for welfare programs. Thus, we are on the verge of a revolution in public sector decision-making processes, where computers will take over many of the governance tasks previously assigned to human bureaucrats. With it, the conditions for impartial and transparent treatment of citizens are changing. Increased capacity to process relevant information enhances the potential for making more accurate and efficient judgments. Yet, we also run the risk of creating a black box society where citizens are being kept in the dark about the decision-making processes that affect their lives, potentially undermining the legitimacy of governmental institutions among the citizens they serve. While significant attention in the recent few years has been devoted to normative discussions on fairness, accountability, and transparency related to algorithmic decision making, little is still known about citizens’ views on this issue. There is thus an imminent need to study these emerging governance developments from a political science perspective. This proposal aims to fill this gap by organizing both in-depth group discussions on this topic among representative samples of the Norwegian population through deliberative polling, as well as conduct survey experiments on larger representative survey samples. The Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University and The Digital Social Science Core Facilities (DIGSSCORE) at the University of Bergen are involved in the project, ensuring high data quality from top social science infrastructures.

Rebels in representative democracy: The appeal and consequences of political defection in Europe

with Lea Kaftan (University of Cologne), Sven-Oliver Proksch (University of Cologne, PI), Jonathan Slapin (University of Zurich), Christopher Wratil (University College London)

funded by Thyssen Foundation

Description This project employs advanced survey data analysis, experimental approaches, and social media analysis to uncover when and why voters like rebel politicians at different levels of government. The project will characterise the nature of rebellion by looking at how politicians communicate with citizens. Our survey experiments will tease out the impact of different theoretical causal mechanisms that could explain why voters like politicians who show independence from their party or the system as a whole. Do voters like rebels because they truly value their “independence?” Do they value rebels only when they perceive that rebellion pulls policy in an ideological direction they prefer? Do they truly value behaviour that undermines the system? Are there differences in how voters perceive individual members rebelling from the party line compared with views of populist parties who rebel against the entire system? And, are there differences across different voters and countries? In answering these questions, the project will provide a deeper understanding of why voters support rebellious behaviour and why politicians engage in it. Our answers will help us to understand when and how rebellion undermines, or alternatively, supports democracy across Europe and beyond.