Over the weekend of June 24-26, 2011, more than 400 California citizens traveled to Torrance for a citizens’ dialogue on the critical issues facing the state, including legislative representation, taxation, whether local governments should have more autonomy and control over public services, and the initiative process. The citizens, who represented a scientific, random sample of the entire state, participated in California’s first statewide “Deliberative Poll.”
While data are still preliminary and full results are still forthcoming, initial analysis found strong demand for greater transparency and accountability, a clear lack of trust in the current system and a strong desire for solutions. Initial results also showed an unwillingness to abdicate control to the Legislature, but a recognition that the Legislature needs tools to solve problems.
During the weekend, citizens engaged in face-to-face discussions in small groups and in dialogue with competing experts. Californians were supported by factual information provided in a discussion guide and considered the critical arguments on both sides of issues. Then they articulated their priorities for fixing the state.
The event was moderated by Judy Woodruff of The PBS NewsHour and videotaped for a documentary to be broadcast on PBS stations in California and elsewhere. The What’s Next California? project included social media and interactive Internet outreach.
The effort was organized by California Forward, the New America Foundation in California, the Public Policy Institute of California, the Nicolas Berggruen Institute, California Common Cause, the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University, and the Davenport Institute at Pepperdine University. The Deliberate Poll was coordinated by the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University.