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Political debate changes voters’ minds

The results of a study on how people vote has found that reasonable and matter-of-fact debate can drastically change the minds of the electorate.

The study was conducted jointly by researchers at the Swiss universities in Bern and Lucerne, as well as at Germany’s Mannheim University.

Before last November’s controversial vote on deporting foreign criminals, the project team divided 230 participants into three groups.

One group received information with arguments for and against the initiative from the rightwing Swiss People’s Party. They also took part in an online chat.

A second group received the documentation but were not invited to participate in the chat. Members of a third group were not given any information, neither were they asked to join the online debate.

The study found that the people in the first group who received information and participated in the online chat often changed their minds.

At the beginning of the process, only 40 per cent were in favour of a less-harsh government counter proposal, but after the debate the figure rose to 70 per cent.

There was little change in the opinions of the members of the other two groups.

On November 28, 53 per cent of voters approved the People’s Party initiative. The government counter proposal received 46 per cent of the vote.

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