“Lasst uns reden” is an initiative that aims to bring together individuals with different political opinions to talk to each other about topics where they have opposing views.
Individuals interested in participating could sign up via a website to participate in so called dialogue weekends. To sign up, they had to answer ten questions about different political topics. At the end of the sign-up period, each participant was matched with a person with opposing views, i.e., a person that answered the ten political questions from the sign-up form completely differently).
Baseline Data Collection: Subsequently, we invited all signed up participants to an online baseline survey, where we measured their party preferences and levels of affective polarization (views of view outpartisan voters compared to inpartisan voters, views of individuals with different political opinions) and trust (general trust towards others, trust towards different institutions). We will use these pre-treatment outcomes as control variables in our analysis to increase the precision of our estimated treatment effects. We also collected a variety of other questionnaire measures such as their sociodemographics, past engagement in different political activities, social preferences, and life satisfaction.
Randomization: To measure the effect of talking to someone with a different political opinion on our outcome variables, we randomly allocated some participants to a first dialogue weekend (treatment) and others to the second dialogue weekend (control), which takes place two weeks after the first one. This “waitlist design” allows us to have a treatment and control group for a short time.
Matching: Prior to the first dialogue weekend, those participants randomly allocated to the first weekend learned about their proposed match, i.e. the person with opposing views with whom they are intended to have the conversation. Only if both accept their proposed match, they received the contact information of each other and were asked to arrange a date and time to meet and talk. The organization proposed to them the specific weekend on which the meeting should take place but participants were essentially free to set the time and date on their own. Additionally, participants received some guidelines and tips to support them in structuring the dialogue in a constructive manner. Members of the control group only learn about their match after the first dialogue weekend has taken place.
Endline Data Collection: In the second survey (main survey), for which we invite all signed-up participants (treatment and control) after the first dialogue weekend, we will measure their levels of affective polarization (attitudes towards outpartisan voters compared to inpartisan voters as well as attitudes towards individuals with different political opinions), their general trust towards others as well as their trust towards different institutions, and their propensity to engage in different political activities. Hence, we will elicit our outcome variables right after the first weekend, when participants in the treatment group should have had the dialogue, and participants in the control group will not yet have talked to each other.
Additionally, we add a small experiment within the treatment group. Before the elicitation of the affective polarization measure, half of the respondents (random assignment) will receive a priming question. The other half of the respondents will receive the priming question at the end of the survey. The priming question, asks respondents to write down a similarity that they share with the person they met. In addition, we will collect feedback about the program.
We are planning to conduct a second survey for the control group to receive their input for future iterations of the program.