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Deliberative Polling

Deliberative Polling

What situations is this tool used in?

'Deliberative Polling' is a registered trademark of the Center for Deliberative Democracy, Stanford University

A Deliberative Poll combines public opinion research with a process of learning, dialogue and deliberation. It tends to be used to examine issues where there is a low baseline of public knowledge or information, or where members of the public have tended not to confront the trade-offs applying to related public policy.

Who is this tool aimed at?

Deliberative Polling can be 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. 

How Is the Tool Used?

The Deliberative Polling 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.

Who has used the tool?

A Deliberative Polling process was conducted in Korea in 2011, and focused on the issue of Korean Unification. This was an issue that saw strong differences of opinion between political parties and between generations at the time. A total of 193 people from Seoul and the surrounding area were brought together to consider issues around the conditions, timing and possible consequences of reunifying the two Koreas. Results saw a number of significant shifts of opinion, for example around issues such as continuation of humanitarian aid to North Korea, and expansion of the Gae-sung industrial complex.


Results of Korea Deliberative Poll on unification

Summary of Korea Deliberative Poll on unification


Deliberative polling has also been used in Northern Ireland. A deliberative poll was held in Omagh in 2007, bringing together people from a range of backgrounds to discuss education policy.

Summary of Omagh Deliberative Poll on education policy

Where to find out more

Deliberative Polling introduction

Fishkin and Luskin paper on Deliberative Polling 

Overviews of Deliberative Polling:

Participation Compass


Northern Ireland Case Study on education planning.