Deliberative opinion poll
The deliberative opinion poll is a form of opinion poll that incorporates the principles of deliberative democracy. The concept of deliberative polling was described by James S. Fishkin in 1988. A typical polling utilizes participants drawn from a random and representative sample to engage in small-group deliberations to create more informed and reflective public opinion.
Logistically, deliberative opinion polls are very similar to Danish consensus conferences. However, instead of reaching an agreed verdict, such polling is interested in measuring opinion change. The goal is to allow the researcher to infer what choices citizens would arrive at if they could undergo an extensive process of deliberation about an issue.
The Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University describes its process as follows:
"A random, representative sample is first polled on the targeted issues. After this baseline poll, members of the sample are invited to gather at a single place for a weekend in order to discuss the issues. Carefully balanced briefing materials are sent to the participants and are also made publicly available. The participants engage in dialogue with competing experts and political leaders based on questions they develop in small group discussions with trained moderators. Parts of the weekend events are broadcast on television, either live or in taped and edited form. After the deliberations, the sample is again asked the original questions. The resulting changes in opinion represent the conclusions the public would reach, if people had opportunity to become more informed and more engaged by the issues."
PBS has worked with Fishkin via the By the People Program on several deliberative opinion polls, including in 2004 when it sponsored several regional deliberative polls around topics related to the 2004 national elections. In June 2011 PBS joined him in hosting What's Next California poll, with the results intend to inform a future California ballot initiative.
Issues Deliberation Australia/America, a political psychology think-tank, has worked with the Australian government to use deliberative polling for several important local and national issues, including the referendum on becoming a republic in 1999.
Deliberative polls have been held in China for over five years. The coastal township of Zeguo in Wenling city has a population of 120,000. Fishkin's team selects 175 people who are representative of the general population. Deliberative polling takes place over a 3-day period, and the local government utilizes the priorities of the group. The experiment worked so well that the topic expanded from a single issue the first year (prioritizing public works projects) to the entire budget, and the Chinese are considering the process in other municipalities.
Between 1996 and 2007, Fishkin managed deliberative opinion polls for a syndicate of Texas utilities. The group's recommendations shifted their focus toward wind power, and the vast majority of customers agreed that it was worth the higher cost.
"The public is very smart if you give it a chance. If people think their voice actually matters, they'll do the hard work, really study their briefing books, ask the experts smart questions and then make tough decisions. When they hear the experts disagreeing, they're forced to think for themselves. About 70% change their minds in the process."
Informed citizens 
Participants can come to learn and appreciate the circumstances and interests of competing arguments through extended discussions and deliberations. This can be achieved by (1) randomly assigning participants into small groups and (2) having impartial moderators to ensure all the major arguments for and against major policy options are covered.
While participants become more engaged and knowledgeable, thoughtful conclusions are expected to emerge, leading to a better quality of public opinion. Furthermore, it is also hoped that such poll can help increase deliberation among all members of the public.
Service as input mechanisms 
Deliberative polling can solicit input from specialized sub-publics and serve as important input mechanisms upstream in the policy making process. However, we should be cautious that such upstream engagement might lead to a lack of tolerance due to the participation of the highly active sub-publics.
Deliberative opinions polls may not be suitable for every public concern. For instance, crisis measures that demand instant decisions would not be appropriate.
Furthermore, organizing such a poll costs a substantial sum of money. In particular, televising part of the content through mass media can be very expensive. Therefore, if neither the governing body nor other organizations are willing to fund such poll, there is no way to get it started.
Imagine how much money is needed to pay for the trips, the hotel and the food for each participant, hiring the research crew and moderators, booking a venue, etc. Additional costs can include paying for participants’ compensation so that people that are randomly selected can put aside their duties to attend the events (i.e. hiring someone to milk a participant’s cow and providing child care.)
Briefing materials 
It is hard to ensure that briefing materials provided to participants are balanced and accurate. It is suggested that an advisory committee with a wide range of people are to be constituted; however, it can be challenging to obtain a balanced advisory committee at the first place. In this sense, it gives room for a biased and/or incomplete presentation of information.
Lack of representativeness 
Deliberative polling requires those randomly sampled to gather at a single place to discuss the targeted issue(s). Those events are typically one to three days while online deliberations can take up to four to five weeks. Even though scientific random sampling are used and each person has an equal chance of being selected, not every selected individual will have the time and interest to join those events.
Indeed, in real-world settings, attendance is low and highly selective, and there can be self-selection biases. Data supports such concern as only 300 out of 869 respondents took up the invitation to participate in actual deliberative meetings. What is more important is that those who attended and those who did not differed significantly, and some groups in society are found to be significantly more likely to attend public meetings than others. In general, those who participate tend to be those highly motivated and opinionated.
As both group dynamics and personalities of participants can play an important role in producing different outcomes of discussions, deliberations can inhibit the types of results Fishkin envisions.
Although moderators are trained to minimize imbalances in deliberations, there is little empirical data on how well they actually facilitate discussions. In fact, studies have found that facilitators’ styles can make a significant difference in outcome.
Careful moderation of discussions might create captive audiences in which participants behave differently from what is likely to occur in real-world settings.
Public involvement 
Due to the limited number of participants, the general public might not be better informed as expected. Such problem cannot be solved by televising the events because the public might not even expose themselves to those specific programs. In fact, spillovers from public meetings to broader social discourse are moderate at best.
In addition, in spite of potentially balanced and structured public meetings, televised coverage and the discussions themselves may produce a situation in which the voices of the most vocal groups were amplified and the perceptions of majority opinions in turn did not reflect real opinion distributions.
Fail to measure broad public reaction 
Although the researchers claim to be interested in measuring change in public opinion instead of reaching an agreed verdict, such method has been used as inputs into policy-making process. Indeed, deliberative polling in Texas has led to the largest-ever investments by Texas in renewable energy, conservation subsidies for low-income consumers, and lower prices for customers buying renewable energy. More recently, Fishkin again claims that deliberation polling should be used in key policy issues like energy. Nonetheless, it is suggested that results derived from such public meetings might not reflect lay audiences’ views, and using them "as gauges of public reactions may produce policy choices that are diametrically opposed to public preferences."
Hawaii Televote 
||An editor has expressed a concern that this article lends undue weight to certain ideas, incidents, controversies or matters relative to the article subject as a whole. (September 2011)|
The Hawaii Televote was a form of polling that did not incorporate moderated face-to-face sessions among the citizens selected. It was invented by Ted Becker and Christa Daryl Slaton at the University of Hawaii in 1978. It was incorporated into the Hawaii State Constitutional Convention in 1978. The first two issues were whether to adopt citizens initiatives into the Hawaii Constitution and the second was whether to select Hawaii judges by election, not gubernatorial appointment.
The Hawaii Televote method was the first university-based model of deliberative polling in the world and succeeded in attracting highly representative samples of the public to participate. There were 12 Hawaii Televotes conducted from 1978 to 1985. Ten were in Hawaii, one in New Zealand (1981) and one sponsored by SCAG (The Southern California Association of Governments) in 1983, prior to the Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games in 1984. The complex method and extensive results have been reported in two books.
See also 
- Consensus conferences
- Deliberative assembly
- Deliberative democracy
- Online deliberation
- Opinion poll
- Public sphere
- Voting system
- Fishkin, James S. "Deliberative Polling®: Executive Summary". CDD. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
- Fishkin, J.S.; Luskin, R.C., & Jowell, R. (2000). "Deliberative polling and public consultation". Parliamentary Affairs 53 (4): 657–666.
- Scheufele, Dietram A. (January 2011). "Modern Citizenship or Policy Dead End? Evaluating the need for public participation in science policy making, and why public meetings may not be the answer". Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy Research Paper Series.
- "Deliberative Polling: Toward a Better-Informed Democracy" Stanford University, Center for Deliberative Democracy
- Leonard, Mark: "China's new Inteligentsia", Prospect Magazine, Issue 144, 2008
- Klein, Joe: "Tough Issues" Time magazine, page 29, September 13, 2010
- Merkle, D. M. (1996). "The polls - Review - The National Issues Convention Deliberative Poll". Public Opinion Quarterly 60 (4): 588–619.
- Tait, Joyce (2009). "Upstream engagement and the governance of science". EMBO Reports S1: S18–S22.
- Siu, Alice. "Deliberative polling". CIVICUS. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
- Tsuruoka, Masahiro. "INTERVIEW: James Fishkin: Deliberative Polling should be used in key policy issues like energy". The Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
- Fishkin, J. S. (1995). The voice of the people. New Haven: Yale University Press.
- McLeod, J. M. D.; Scheufele, D. A., and Moy, P. (1999). "Community, communication, and participation: The role of mass media and interpersonal discussion in local political participation". Political Communication 16 (3): 315–336.
- Admir, J. G. (1996). "The Hawthorne effet is a common artifact in social research". Public Perspective 7: 14–16.
- Walsh, Katherine Cramer (2007). Taking about Race: Community Dialogues and the Politics of Difference. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Hovland, Carl L. (1959). "Reconciling conflicting results derived from experimental and survey studies of attitude change". American Pschologist 14: 8–17.
- Binder, A. R.; Scheufele, D. A., Brossard, B. (2010). "Misguided science policy? The pitfalls of using public meetings as surrogate gauges of public opinion". Working paper, University of Wisconsin Madison.
- Ted Becker (December 1981). "Teledemocracy: Bringing power back to the people". The Futurist.
- Christa Slaton (1992). Televote. New York: Praeger. ISBN 0-275-93836-0.
- Ted Becker; Christa Slaton (2000). The Future of Teledemocracy. Westport, CT: Praeger. ISBN 0-275-97090-6.
- Center for Deliberative Democracy, Stanford University
- By the People Program, Public Broadcasting System
- Tomorrow's Europe, the first Europe wide deliberative Poll
Further reading 
- Becker, Ted. "Teledemocracy," The Futurist, December 1981
- Fishkin, James S.: Democracy and Deliberation: New Directions for Democratic Reform, ISBN 0-300-05161-1, Yale University Press, 1991
- Slaton Christa.: Televote. New York: Praeger 1992
- Becker, Ted and Christa Daryl Slaton. The Future of Teledemocracy. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2000