|Transcript - January 29, 2004|
Part IV: Results and Conclusions
RAY SUAREZ: After their plenary sessions, the participants were polled on their views, and this being an experiment, the same poll was given to a randomly selected control group in each city: People who did not take part in any deliberation and whose views therefore, represents the general public. So what did our participants think? Well, when asked: How important is it that a democracy be established in Iraq -- 32 percent said it was very important; 42 percent, somewhat important; 25 percent, not very important. And when asked: How important is it that stable government be established in Iraq, even if it is not democratic, 83 percent said it was very important; 11 percent, somewhat important; and 4 percent not very important.
Professor Jim Fishkin, director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford, put these results in some perspective.
JIM FISHKIN, PHD, Stanford University : The intensity of support for establishing democracy lessened -- compared to the control group there was a difference of about 20 points. And the intensity of support for having a stable government, presumably so that we could leave, increased by about ten points compared to the control group. So we know that people, on reflection came to a nuanced but slightly different view of the priorities. There's still very broad support for democracy, establishing democracy, but it is no longer intense.
RAY SUAREZ: Two other questions with striking results: When asked if the war in Iraq has gotten in the way of the war on terror, 52 percent of our participants agreed; 35 percent disagreed. And when asked if the U.S. should share its control of Iraq with other countries or the U.N. in return for their sharing more of their military and financial burden, 82 percent agreed. And 11 percent disagreed.
JIM FISHKIN, PHD: Our participants, after their day-long deliberation, were more convinced that the war in Iraq had gotten in the way of the war on terror. They were nine points more, higher on that than the control group. And our participants, compared to the control group, were seven points higher in believing that the U.S. should share control with the U.N. or other countries in Iraq . And that was already extremely high, and so in the mass public, it was at 75 percent, but it went all the way to 82 percent in our sample.
RAY SUAREZ: Finally, on economic matters, our participants were evenly divided on these statements: NAFTA has helped the American economy. And on the whole, more free trade means more jobs because we can sell more goods abroad.
JIM FISHKIN, PHD: What interested me especially was the nuance in the views of the deliberative samples because they supported the ideal of free trade, but they also were afraid it wouldn't actually bring more jobs. And there are good arguments for both of those views.
RAY SUAREZ: At the end of the day we took our own poll.
MAN: I'm coming away with the fact that it is probably one of the most enjoyable, intellectually stimulating days I've ever put in. It was... I learned a lot. The panels were great, the small groups were great. I just enjoyed it.
WOMAN: It was very informative, and it kind of... well, it changed my views a little bit on some things. But yet it gave me a better understanding. I really enjoyed this.
MAN: This was one of the... I thought this was one of the most terrific things that I've ever been able to anticipate in. It really renews my faith in the United States of America, that all of us can get together, we have different backgrounds, different opinions and we can discuss it in a civilized manner -- and no fights, no yelling, no screaming, everyone was polite. How many other countries can you do that?
WOMAN: I am motivated to now, know, go out and educate myself so that I can be a better citizen and I'm also encouraged, like Dave was saying, to see that we can sit here and different ages, different races, different classes and have a civil discussion and respect one another's viewpoints and also realize that we're not as polarized in our viewpoints as it seems.
Former Members of Congress Discuss Civic Engagement
Patricia Schroeder, Democrat from Colorado, served on the House Judiciary and Armed Services Committees and was co-chair of the congressional women's caucus. She's now president of the Association of American Publishers. Robert Walker, a Republican from Pennsylvania was a member of his party's leadership in the House. He's now chairman of Wexler and Walker, public policy associates in Washington . First, your general reaction to what you just saw, the questions and the comments from these people in ten different cities and towns around the country --
FORMER REP. PATRICIA SCHROEDER, (D -Colo) : I love it-- I love it. I love it. I just wanted to be in all of them. I mean I think it is so wonderful that the American people, as busy as they are, really want to sit down and listen to each other and have a discussion. That's great. And I think what it really says is some of the media and some of the journalists and maybe some of the politicians all underestimate constantly the American public. They really, really have a lot more that they want to, a, learn and, b, say about it to have input. And that's what really makes it work. So I see that and I guess goose bumps, I must tell you. It's like saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
JIM LEHRER: Did you feel goose bumps, too?
FORMER REP. ROBERT WALKER, (R- Penn.): Yeah, I thought it was very interesting and I thought what particularly was interesting was that people had to engage in the complexities of the issue, that all of a sudden that the slogans were out the window, they actually had to examine what somebody else was saying that was different from their opinion. And they had to do the same kind of focusing on complexities and in a sense in confrontation that the policymakers have to do. And so in a sense they became for at least a short period of time people really engaged in policy making, and I thought that was a very interesting outcome here.
JIM LEHRER: Short period of time, really engaged in policy-making. Is it possible to make it a longer period of time for folks like these and others?
FORMER REP. PATRICIA SCHROEDER: Well, I think both of us probably tried to do it through town meetings and discussions. And my guess is that Bob and I would both agree one of the hardest things as a member of Congress is you often went into a group and you knew what the five-second applause lines were, but you really wanted to take people through a process to see how you might come up with another answer. And this is something where you say, how do we use this? I really think using TV, I think getting people together, putting together these kind of groups, encouraging politicians to do more open forums, not just we'll just have our own group in here and act like cheerleaders. It's one way that you can do it.
FORMER REP. ROBERT WALKER: And the fact is that we are at a time when we may be able to harness a lot of interactive technology that would allow people to do this without actually having to bring them together. I mean, there are the new meet-up kinds of technologies that are out there may in fact be able to be harnessed in the future in a political way. And what this says is: If in fact you could figure out a way to do that well, that you would have people in a vastly more informed situation.
JIM LEHRER: What about the facts of the situation in which we live right now where, after -- post-9/11, war in Iraq ? Is this a good time to get people more involved in fields of discussion and debate that are normally left to the experts -- only they know, only the politicians know about foreign policy issues?
FORMER REP. ROBERT WALKER: Well, in my mind, I mean the two realities of our time is that there is truly a global war on terrorism, and there is truly a globalization of the economy. Those are very complex, complicated issues, but they are very prone to slogan-making by people who are seeking power. If in fact you could get the citizenry really engaged in dealing with the fundamentals of those problems, with the complex nature of those problems, it would change the political dialogue in this country because all of a sudden, the politicians would have to move beyond their slogans, and that would be a very healthy thing.
JIM LEHRER: What would you say, though, to one of the folks who said, "people don't care what I think?"
FORMER REP. PATRICIA SCHROEDER: That is one of the great tragedies going on right now. I think it's a very good time to start this debate. Plus, it's also beginning the new century and we're kind of rekindling our democratic institutions, and we need to find ways to use technology and make people get rid of the cynicism. I always remind people about the word "cynic." You know where it came from?
JIM LEHRER: No.
FORMER REP. PATRICIA SCHROEDER: It came from Greece . Athens was a democracy and s cynic came from the word meaning "yapping dog." The idea was that the cynic took down the democracy because no matter mater what they said, people went "they don't care, they don't care." Well, you know what? They do care. Everybody still has a vote. And if you really roll up your shirt sleeves and start finding ways to get involved and let people know, people will listen. I think both of us would agree on either side of the aisle. Folks like to know what's really on someone's mind. But that's our challenge, and especially as we've gotten to be such a large country where the little town hall meetings that we all think about when the country just began and the colonial periods obviously don't work, what does work? I think just cities even reading one book and discussing one book it's an interesting way to then discuss maybe racism or maybe something in another way. People are learning new ways to do this.
JIM LEHRER: You notice the person who said, "hey, I was surprised we weren't any more polarized. I thought we would be more polarized." Did that surprise you as well? Do you see the electorate as being polarized right now?
FORMER REP. ROBERT WALKER: Well, I think that there is a substantial body of opinion on each side of ideological questions. On the other hand, it is much closer to the center. I mean there's a right center debate, a left center debate that ultimately finds common ground. It's what happens in the Congress. And all after sudden people find out that there are ways of achieving some compromise that are actually moves you forward. And it's the congressional process. I'm afraid the congressional process that too few people see. People see only the confrontation in Congress and they don't see where members of Congress like Pat Schroeder and Bob Walker can actually come together and enact national policy.
JIM LEHRER: But outside of Congress, does our system encourage folks like we just saw to do what they did, to set out and say, "hey, I'm sitting here as a right winger, you're sitting here as a left winger. Let's figure out that common ground that Bob is talking about?"
FORMER REP. PATRICIA SCHROEDER: I think too many of some of the talk shows have become entertainment and the idea is who can throw the best one-liners at the other. And it's almost like a wrestling match. You sit behind your guy who kind of agrees with you and cheer him on. And I think that polarizes it even more because it just becomes... it's not so much that you're seeing anything that's really enlightening you; it's just that you're getting...
FORMER REP. ROBERT WALKER: And there are also streams of information that are customized for people who want to have polarized views these days. And so people often don't move into the general knowledge area. You can sit down at your computer and get a stream of information that comes to you that wholly agrees with you. And I think that that has changed the way in which deliberations takes place.
FORMER REP. PATRICIA SCHROEDER: Oh, do I, too. I think it's huge.
JIM LEHRER: Do you share Pat's initial view that you sense add kind of longing among these folks to do what they did? They had not been asked to do this before, sit down with people they disagree with and talk about...
FORMER REP. ROBERT WALKER: Yeah, I think people really do have a sense that there's something missing when we don't have these kinds of discussions. What concerns me a little bit is I do think that people shy away from anything which becomes confrontational, and as soon as there becomes confrontation, they step back. And the fact is that on many of these questions, you can't really have a resolution without having the debate. And --
JIM LEHRER: You have to have the confrontation first.
FORMER REP. ROBERT WALKER: There has to be a debate. It doesn't have to be nasty, but there does have to be the sense that we've got to get all the issues on the table and then forge the compromise after you've heard from everybody.
JIM LEHRER: Yes?
FORMER REP. PATRICIA SCHROEDER: I was just going to say, that's exactly right. You need to have a factual debate and not a personal debate. And I think sometimes the body that he we came from, Congress, gets personal, rather than factual.
I came to Congress during the Vietnam War and in the middle of an impeachment, and nothing could be of higher charge. And yet it was a very different time. We could argue vehemently, vehemently and then at the end of the day go sit down and have a cup of coffee and talk things over. Some of that's left. I mean, there is a lot of polarization going on. And I think that's why citizens so loved coming to the table and being able to say, you know, we can disagree but we can still be speaking to each other; it's amazing.
JIM LEHRER: I hear you. Thank you both very much.
FORMER REP. ROBERT WALKER: Thank you.
JIM LEHRER: And, rest assured, By the People will continue its non-partisan efforts to stimulate discussion about America 's role in the world.
For more about our Internet-based activities as well as other public meetings log on to the By the People Web site at pbs.org.
For Ray Suarez and me, Jim Lehrer, thank you.
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