Deliberative Polling


A Deliberative Poll takes a representative sample of the population, provides them with information about an issue and time to deliberate about it before coming up with a considered opinion. These results are then used as a guide to what the whole population would think if they had a similar chance to deliberate.


  • A representative sample of the population is selected, based on gender, race, education and socio-economic background.
  • Participants fill out a questionnaire on their opinions on the issue.
  • Participants are then invited to gather for a few days to discuss the issues. Participants have access to unbiased background material. They discuss the issues in small groups with trained facilitators. Participants can also ask questions to experts in the area.
  • After this deliberation, participants fill out the original questionnaire again.

The resulting changes in opinion are thought to represent the conclusions the public would reach if they had the opportunity to become more informed about the issues.
Often, Deliberative Polling creates dramatic, statistically significant changes in views. However, follow up studies tend to show that some of these changes are reversed over time.
Deliberative polls are often run in collaboration with TV companies, which then broadcast parts of the process, allowing the wider public to share the learning of the participants.
You should use a Deliberative Poll when you want to engage on a complex issues which the public know little about.


  • The number of participants in a Deliberative Polling process range from around 100 to 600.
  • It is important that the participants constitute a representative sample of society, based on gender, race, education and socio-economic background. Often a specialist recruitment organisation is used to do this part.



Main costs include: participant recruitment and expenses; media involvment.

Approximate time expense


  • The poll itself is often run over several days. Allow at least six months for setting up and running a Deliberative Poll.


  • Combines the statistical representativeness of a scientific sample with interaction and deliberation
  • Increases public understanding of the complexity of issues
  • Includes people that would normally not choose to get involved
  • Demonstrates the difference between people’s uninformed and informed views
  • Good means of measuring the diversity of public opinion
  • When run in collaboration with a media outlet it has the potential to be a high profile event.


  • Does not necessariy provide qualitative information
  • Can require a television/media partner to achieve its wider public awareness raising effects.


Social Research: Developed by US researchers to overcome the often uninformed and fickle nature of opinion poll results.


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


Center for Deliberative Democracy
Department of Communication, 450 Serra Mall, Stanford University,
Stanford, CA 94305 2050, USA
Telephone: 001 650 723 1941
Fax: 001 650 725 2472
Email: [email protected]

Image: 'Ballot Box' by Rama (CC BY-SA 2.0 fr)