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POLLOT - Political Lotteries in European Democratisation


Political lotteries randomly select individuals, citizens or legislators, to take political decisions. The POLLOT project will investigate if and how such lotteries widen access to the political system and thus support equality.

It is funded for a period of 5 years (May 2023-April 2028) by a Starting Grant of the European Research Council (ERC).


In recent years, random selection has been used to draw citizens into assemblies to find solutions to some contentious, polarising issues (for example la “Convention citoyenne pour le climat” in France). Less known is the fact that lottery-based procedures were used in 19th century parliaments of some European countries. In those emerging democracies, lotteries were used to assign elected legislators to influential legislative tasks, and to ensure that non-elites could participate in deliberation in smaller groups. This is how for example the members of the powerful budget committee were selected in the French Third Republic.

These historical natural experiments have never before been investigated using modern statistical methods. The project will generate an original, comprehensive cross-national dataset of lotteries, legislators, parliamentary activity and offices in canonical cases of European democratisation, including Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, as well as the UK where no political lotteries were used. The cases will be studied in detail as well as in comparative perspective. The research will also include a controlled experiment with lotteries in online citizens’ assemblies today, whose research design will be informed by the historical natural experiments. Finally, the research project will investigate the link between the use of lotteries in democracies and the evolution of selection and political equality over the long run. In this way, the project aims to understand why lotteries were eventually abolished and draw lessons for present-day random assemblies.


  • Brenda Van Coppenolle, Senior Research Fellow, Sciences Po, CEE (Principal Investigator)
  • Sofija Riegger, Research Assistant, Sciences Po, CEE


Contact: pollot@sciencespo.fr

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