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Deliberative Polling

Measuring Public Opinion in Challenging Contexts

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

As we have discussed in other blog posts, public opinion is particularly important in countries with weak institutions of governance and accountability. Especially in fragile and conflict states, it can lend legitimacy to the government, help creating a national identity, and support governance reform. Unfortunately, public opinion is particularly hard to measure in those societies where it could be most important.

What the Public Would Want If It Knew Better

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

We have often moaned about opinion polls and their limited value on this blog. You know, those things where people get asked about their favorite toothpaste and that gets sold as public opinion? The question, of course, is how to do it better. Public opinion is an intricate phenomenon. We don't really know how to define the public to begin with, let alone how to figure out their opinion.

There's been a great model around since the mid 90s: Deliberative Polling. Introduced by James Fishkin, Deliberative Polls are designed to "show what the public would think about the issues, if it thought more earnestly and had more information about them,” to provide a “glimpse of the hypothetical public” (Luskin, Fishkin, and Jowell, 2002). It works like this:

Attitudes, Opinions, and Why Dinner Matters

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

In the general slander of public opinion and public opinion polls ("leaders who pander to public opinion lose respect", see John Kay in the Financial Times), people often mistake attitudes for opinion. It's a technical detail, but from a governance reform view it makes all the difference. Attitudes are predispositions. Opinions are expressions, speech acts. Opinions precede and determine behavior. And that, after all, is where we aim in working toward governance reform.

Breaking the Impasse: Public Participation in Budget Disputes

Antonio Lambino's picture

California’s recent budget debacle is not an isolated case.  An opinion piece entitled "Budgets by the People, for the People" by Chris Elmendorf and Ethan J. Leib in The New York Times reports that since 2002, 14 States in the U.S. have experienced delays in budget approval.  They also suggest a solution.  The key to resolving budget deadlocks is citizen participation. 

Here’s what they propose. 

Soup or Salad? Contrasting Approaches to Deliberation in the European Union

Taeku Lee's picture

Imagine you have walked back home from your local town market on a jasmine-scented Saturday morning with a bagful of the season’s harvest. In Northern California in the summer, that bag will probably contain some heirloom tomatoes, hothouse cucumbers, red bell peppers, Meyer lemons, and mint sprigs. As you sit to rest your feet, your mouth starts to water in anticipation of how these provisions will taste. They are meant to entertain guests over supper later in the evening, but you simply cannot wait and decide to steal a sampling of small pieces of each item. 

Governance for a Crowded Planet: The Need to Leap and to Innovate – Part I

Verena Fritz's picture

In March, Jeffrey Sachs published his latest book Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet – an urgent plea for societies across the globe to reduce and better manage their impact on the earth’s ecosystems if we want to survive and prosper in an ever more crowded world.

As Sachs warns, continuing ‘business as usual’ will make life on our planet increasingly unsustainable. Air pollution and global warming present the biggest risks. But as humans have come to use almost any natural resource intensively, there are also major risks related to the availability of water and of fertile top-soil. At the same time, Sachs argues that we have the technical tools and the economic means to save the planet and to accommodate a rising global population – as well as increasing global wealth and rising consumption in today’s poorer countries.