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Abstract

Among both scholars and practioners, the critical importance of framing processes in the realm of deliberative democracy has been neither formally acknowledged nor adequately studied so far. The purpose of this theoretical article is to craft and define the analytical concepts and methodological tools necessary to shed light on this complex relationship. After introducing the notion of ‘deliberative frame’, which is examined across two distinct framing processes – ‘primary’ and ‘derivative’ (or secondary) – this article presents ‘deliberative frame analysis’ (DFA) as a qualitative method which can uncover the ‘meta-frame’ and the specific issue framings (or the deliberative ‘frames’) within a deliberation. This is achieved by examining selected elements both of the organizational context and information materials, and will be illustrated by the example of a famous deliberative poll carried out at European level. Finally, the introduction of authentically competing frames (i.e. ‘counterframes’ and not merely counterarguments) into the deliberative setting, along with the structural possibility for ‘reframing’ in the course of the deliberation, is indicated as a substantive precondition for neutralizing the overall framing effects and thus avoiding a heavily biased deliberation outcome. The article therefore offers a more comprehensive understanding of framing processes as a key challenge for deliberative politics, particularly as regards the legitimacy claims of its various experiments and practices, which are increasingly common in most established democracies.

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