Citizens Juries and Deliberative Polls

A friend wrote me “What is the distinction for a general reader between a Citizen Jury and Deliberative Poll?”   Here’s my answer:
 
A Citizens Jury is very analogous to a regular jury, but it is considering a public issue instead of the responsibility of someone in a criminal or civil court case. It usually has one or two dozen members selected at random. Its analogy to courtroom testimony is that it studies materials covering a range of views on the issue, and then gets testimony from diverse experts. It then deliberates and formulates recommendations for policymakers and/or the public. It usually lasts 3-5 days.
 
A Deliberative Poll, in contrast, is analogous to an opinion poll, but it involves some deliberation among the participants. Hundreds of randomly selected participants are invited to participate for one day. They get some briefing materials beforehand to discuss with friends and family, and then they deliberate together when they are brought together. They fill out a confidential questionnaire both before and after their deliberations to note any changes in issue-knowledge and opinion.

Recently James Fishkin, founder of deliberative polling, suggested that it could be used in place of current disruptive townhall meetings, with citizen deliberators meeting with their Congressperson for serious discussion at the end of the day.

Many people prefer deliberative polling because it is statisically more representative — that is, closer to the high number of participants in public opinion polls.

From my perspective, however, the quality of deliberation tends to be higher with 12-24 people convened for 3-5 days (including cross-examining expert witnesses) than with hundreds of people for one day, thus I see a Citizens Jury as more able to generate collective intelligence/wisdom than a Deliberative Poll. A Citizens Jury is not focused on citizens changing their minds (the focus of the polling) as much as on coming to coherent group recommendations.

I see deliberative polling as a deliberative form of focus group (giving decision-makers a sense of how the public is thinking) and as a citizen education activity, whereas I see Citizens Juries (and other forms of citizen deliberative council as per ) as a deliberative act of direct wise democracy, where a citizen-based microcosm of the whole (community, society) is making decisions on behalf of the whole. Although usually those decisions are advisory, they can be (and occasionally are) directly empowered.
 
I hope from this you can extract the material you need for your purposes. 
 
Coheartedly,
Tom

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