Thursday, July 14, 2011
Deliberative Polling as a Consultation Procedure

California is experimenting with a deliberative polling process that looks interesting for reuse in a more regular, institutionalized way as part of the Consultation Procedure system in Switzerland (Art. 147 of the Swiss Constitution).

More than 400 scientifically randomly sampled Californians gathered in Torrance at the end of June for an experiment in deliberative polling. Jim Fishkin of the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University and creator of the Deliberative Poll format, is enthusiastic about the experience:

"I have never seen engagement and excitement like last weekend," said Fishkin. "Californians are willing and able to engage when they trust their government and believe there will be a high level of transparency and accountability, I am hopeful these results change the dialogue in Sacramento and spur real change."

An initial analysis found:

  • Strong demand for greater transparency and accountability
  • Clear lack of trust in current system
  • Strong desire for solutions
  • Unwillingness to abdicate control to the legislature, but a recognition that the legislature needs tools to solve problems

Specifically, the poll found the following changes in opinion after deliberation:

  • Creating a formal review process to allow an initiative's proponents to amend an initiative following public input" support rose from 59% to 76% after deliberation.
  • Publishing the top five contributors for and against each ballot measure in the ballot pamphlet" Support rose from 82% to 91%
  • Allowing the legislature to amend an initiative that has already passed, subject to a public review and the agreement of the initiative's proponents" Opposition increased from 44% to 51%

Data are still preliminary and full results gathered from the deliberations are forthcoming, tackling aspects such as tax and fiscal reform; initiative process; reforming the way the legislature represents voters and reforming the way programs and services are delivered with more emphasis on local accountability and control.

Viewpoint: A Graduate Student at the Deliberative Poll