Do citizens use storytelling or rational argumentation to lobby politicians?
What should count as legitimate forms of reasoning in public deliberation is a contested issue. Democratic theorists have argued that storytelling may offer a more accessible form of deliberation for marginalised citizens than ‘rational argumentation’. We investigate the empirical support for this claim by examining Swedish citizens’ use of storytelling in written communication with the political establishment. We test whether stories are used frequently, as well as by whom, and how they are used. We find that storytelling is (1) rare, (2) not more frequent among people with nonmainstream views, and (3) used together with rational argumentation. In line with some previous research, we show that stories still play other important roles: authorising the author, undermining political opponents and, most often, further supporting arguments made in ‘rational’ form. The results suggest that people rely more on rational argumentation than storytelling when expecting interlocutors to be hostile to their views.
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