Civic Engagement - Deliberative Polling

Civic Engagement - Deliberative Polling

03 March 2015

We recently launched a Civic Activism Awards Programme to allow more organisations to try out one of the 29 tools featured in the Tools Directory.

A Deliberative Poll combines public opinion research with a process of learning, dialogue and deliberation. It can be used to examine issues where there is a low baseline of public knowledge or information.

This methodology is used by governments, civil society organisations and other agencies that want to explore public views on a particular issue.

The process often impacts the views of members of the public who go through it, thus providing an indication to decision makers of what the views of the wider population might be, were they provided with a similar chance to deliberate.

It has already been used in Northern Ireland back in 2007, when people from a range of backgrounds came together in Omagh to discuss education policy.


The process begins with a representative sample of, typically, 100 to 600 people undertaking a questionnaire about their opinions on a particular issue. Participants then spend a couple of days together, discussing the issue with the help of a trained facilitator. Their discussions involve access to balanced background material and the ability to ask questions of a range of experts or decision makers.

Sometimes, parts of this deliberation process are televised and the background materials might also be made public, to enable wider public engagement with the issues in hand.

Following the deliberation process, participants repeat the original questionnaire. This often results in significant shifts in people’s views, although follow-up studies tend to show that some of these changes become reversed over time.

The title ‘Deliberative Polling’ is a registered trademark of the Center for Deliberative Democracy, Stanford University.

If you are interested in submitting an application for the Civic Activism Awards Programme in collaboration with others, but have not yet identified a suitable partner or partners, please click here.

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