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WHAT IS BY THE PEOPLEDeliberative Opinion Polls®
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In 2005 By the People hosted a national online Deliberative Opinion Poll giving more than 300 citizens nationwide the chance to have an in-depth discussion about national healthcare and education issues-- all from their computers.

Deliberative Opinion Polls were a main feature of several Deliberation Week events. The polls showed how citizens' views on healthcare and education were changed by participating in dialogues organized by local PBS stations and their partners.

Deliberation Week was the focus of a national PBS broadcast that aired on November 10, 2005. PBS stations also produced companion local programming on topics ranging from rural healthcare to closing the education achievement gap.

What is a Deliberative Opinion Poll®?
By the People frequently includes Deliberative Opinion Polls in its Citizen Deliberations. Pioneered by James Fishkin at Stanford University's Center for Deliberative Democracy, Deliberative Polling® is an attempt to use public opinion research in a new and constructive way. The polling process reveals the conclusions the public would reach if people had opportunity to become more informed and more engaged by the issues.

How Does a Deliberative Opinion Poll® Work?
A random sample of citizens in a defined geographic area are called and given a brief survey that establishes their demographic and attitudinal profile. This makes it possible to figure out if those who eventually attend the Citizen Deliberation are representative of the larger sample. After the survey, the citizens are invited to attend a Citizen Deliberation event. Often, to minimize barriers to participation, citizens are told they will be paid a stipend for their time. Those who say they will come to the event are sent balanced background materials. The participants come together for a day, and are randomly assigned to moderated small groups to discuss the issues. As part of their small group discussions, they develop questions to ask a balanced panel of experts on each issue. At the end of the event, they fill out another survey. The citizens' changes of opinion from before and after their deliberation are analyzed. These results are shared with the larger public and with opinion-leaders and policy-makers. These informed views often challenge the conventional wisdom about public priorities and concerns.

Deliberative Poll® Results Show Citizens' Healthcare, Education Concerns
-Number of Uninsured Americans Tops List of Healthcare Worries
-Parental Involvement Key to School Improvement

In fall 2005, By the People sponsored scientific experiments to see what the public would think about education and healthcare, if people became more informed about the issues and talked about them together, both online and face-to-face. Results from this Deliberative Polling® were revealed on By the People, a national PBS special that aired on November 10, 2005.

Quicktime Video: View highlights from the broadcast (6Mb)

Approximately 1,000 Americans engaged in an online Deliberative Poll®. For five weeks, participants joined in weekly small group dialogues with trained moderators, discussed balanced briefing materials and posed questions to experts from different points of view. Citizens also participated Deliberative Polling® in conjunction with face-to-face Deliberation Week conversations, hosted by PBS stations and civic partners.

Participants in By the People's online Deliberative Poll® thought that the number of Americans without health insurance was the single most important problem facing the system, and they were willing to support policies that would require at least some sacrifices on their part to deal with it. On education, participants moved toward local control and parental involvement as key factors in improving the nation's schools. You may read more about the online poll results by visiting our Online Deliberation page.

Deliberation Week events took place in Albuquerque, NM; Baton Rouge and Hammond, LA; Bowling Green, OH; Charlottesville, VA; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; Kansas City, MO; Kearney, NE; Miami, FL; Muncie, IN; New Haven, CT; Pittsburgh, PA; Rochester, NY; St. Louis, MO; San Diego, CA; and Seattle, WA.

Answers to the national survey questions revealed some interesting differences among the cities participating in face-to-face citizen dialogues during Deliberation Week, as well as between locals and the national online participants. These differences suggest the distinctiveness of local challenges and perceptions.

On the topic of healthcare, local communities, like the national online participants, thought that the cost of healthcare and the lack of insurance coverage were the two most important questions, but most of them ranked cost above the problem of insurance, while the online participants thought the opposite.

When asked to what extent their own Congressional representatives and state legislators reflected their priorities, local participants were, for the most part, more out of synch with the national than with the state officials. On education, both the online and face-to-face dialogue participants graded the nation's schools lower than the schools in their own communities. Participants in the local sites varied considerably on whether the state or the locality should control testing. On this issue, the rural community of Kearney, NE, whose participants were approximately half randomly-invited educators, strongly favored local control. On "No Child Left Behind," in general local sites were more favorable than the national online deliberators, with the marked exception of Kearney.

You may read more about the local education and healthcare Deliberative Polling® results-- as well as how participant samples were selected-- here in .pdf form.

About the Deliberative Polls®
The online experiment, part of Deliberation Week organized by By the People, was conducted by Stanford University's Center for Deliberative Democracy in conjunction with the public opinion research firm Polimetrix of Palo Alto, CA. Polling of participants at the face-to-face deliberations was handled by local conveners with assistance from Yale University's Institution for Social and Policy Studies and technical help and data analysis from the Guild Group Inc.