Public Policy Center, University of Nebraska


Date of this Version



Muhlberger, P. (2018) Stealth Democracy: Authoritarianism and democratic deliberation. Journal of Public Deliberation, 14(2), 1-38.


In Stealth Democracy, Hibbing and Theiss-Morse seek to show that much of the American public desires "stealth democracy"--a democracy run like a business with little deliberation or public input. The authors maintain that stealth democracy beliefs are largely reasonable preferences, and the public does not want and would react negatively to a more deliberative democracy. This paper introduces an opposing "authoritarian stealth democrats thesis" that suggests that stealth democracy beliefs may be driven by authoritarianism and a variety of related orientations including poor political perspective taking and low cognitive engagement. These orientations may be ameliorated through democratic deliberation. Hypotheses are tested with survey and experimental data from deliberations with a RDD sample of 568 Pittsburgh residents and of 99 Canadian young adults. Using confirmatory factor analysis and OLS regression with cluster-robust standard errors, the paper finds that authoritarianism and related orientations strongly explain stealth democracy beliefs among deliberation participants and that deliberation significantly reduces stealth democracy beliefs and factors behind these beliefs.