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PASC calls on Government to use deliberative polling

28 June 2013

PASC advocates in-depth polling to engage public in National Strategy.  Parliament’s committees should also engage the public this way, to hold government to account for strategy

In a Report published today, Friday 28 June 2013, the Commons Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) calls on Government to begin to use deliberative polling to inform national strategy, and says Parliament should step into the void to hold Government accountable to the public’s aspirations in this way.

Following its Report "Strategic Thinking in Government" the Committee commissioned YouGov to conduct a "deliberative" poll on its behalf, to test its belief that it is possible to engage the public in a meaningful dialogue about the way they see the UK’s national interests.  Government could use the insights gleaned this way to develop and to inform national strategic thinking.

Deliberative polling

Deliberative polling works by repeatedly asking sets of respondents the same questions on a particular issue. Before the set of questions is posed again, participants are presented with additional information and alternative arguments about the issue. The differences in the responses given each successive time the same questions are asked helps to inform an understanding of the factors that determine public views and opinion on a particular issue.

YouGov’s analysis of the results demonstrates that, having been provided with detailed information relevant to the questions they are being asked, respondents in a poll provide nuanced answers that engage in a meaningful way with issues of national strategic interest. The study shows that the insight into the views and values of the public offered by deliberative polling would make an important contribution to National Strategy, and supports the conclusion of the Committee’s Strategic Thinking Report that "Government, and Parliament as a whole, need a deeper understanding both of how the public perceives our national interests and of what country the public aspires for the UK to be".

Trident

Bernard Jenkin MP, Chair of the Committee said:

"Our polling explores what people feel about the UK’s role in the world; on what things people feel that governments should spend more or less money; and in particular, whether they think renewing the for Trident submarines is right.  PASC makes no collective comment on the substance of the opinions expressed, but the results are most interesting.

Polling always has limitations. There is no substitute for genuine thought and strategic planning in government, but our research shows this kind of iterative or deliberative polling can offer powerful insight into the views, values and attitudes that shape public opinion on national strategic issues. Most political polling takes a snapshot. You don’t get an idea about how stable or unstable peoples’ views are, or what has determined those views.  Deliberative polling explores how respondents might evolve their views after they are informed with different arguments or information.

We called, in a recent report, for better, genuine public engagement in policy-making, not the phoney consultation on things that have already been decided that has become the norm. We recommend that the Government begin to use deliberative polling as a means of better understanding what sort of country we want to be."

Centre for Deliberative Democracy

The concept of Deliberative Polling® was originated by Professor James Fishkin in 1988. The Director of the Center for Deliberative Polling® at the University of Texas at Austin moved to  Stanford University on 1 September 2003. Under its new name "Center for Deliberative Democracy" (http://cdd.stanford.edu), it focuses on research and application of Deliberative Polling® which we understand may be a registered trademark in the United States and EU. Fees from the US trademark go to the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University to support its research.  The use of the term “deliberative polling” by the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee and in the evidence submitted to it does not necessarily refer to the technique as employed by the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University, neither is it accepted that there was any infringement of the US registered trademark 'Deliberative Polling'®.

Further information

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