Results from an experiment by the Center for Deliberative Democracy, for this election season:
A national experiment in public online deliberation, sponsored by By the People in partnership with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation as part of the Dialogues in Democracy project, reveals what citizens would think about their role in a democracy-if only they became more informed about the issues and talked about them together. Over 1,300 citizens from around the country participated in this experiment over four weeks in fall 2007. A nationally representative sample was recruited and randomly assigned to deliberate about the issues (301 participants) or to simply answer survey questions before and after (1,000 person control group). The results show that once people talk about the issues and become more informed about them, they change their views in significant, and sometimes surprising, ways.
“We put all of America in a virtual room to consider the future of citizenship,” said James Fishkin, Director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University, which conducted the poll in conjunction with YouGov America. “The results are thoughtful and balanced and deserve to be considered by policymakers everywhere.” Sample results will be featured on the By the People national broadcast, airing in January on PBS.
The discussions focused on four aspects of the role of citizens in a democracy: political participation, exercising choice, becoming informed and public service. The discussions focused on four aspects of the role of citizens in a democracy: political participation, exercising choice, becoming informed and public service. In each case there were statistically significant changes of opinion and gains in information. The sample learned a lot and changed its views. In fact, 39 out of 56 policy questions (66%) changed significantly among the deliberators from the beginning to the end of the process.