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California Considers Deliberative Poll evaluates future of CA policy

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Henry Brady (left) and James Fishkin (right) were involved in the study.


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APRIL 23, 2023

The California 100 initiative recently released results of its California Considers Deliberative Poll, revealing unexpected political accord, hope and curiosity for the future of California.

Designed by members of the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy and Stanford University’s Deliberative Democracy Lab, the California Considers Deliberative Poll used polling methods that differed from conventional polls.

The first part of the deliberative poll consisted of 719 individuals from a random sample voting on 56 proposal policies from the perspective of Californians living in 2050, according to the full report from California 100.

The proposals centered on what California 100 believed will be prevalent topics of the future: infrastructure and environment, economic development, community health and well-being, workforce and talent and governance and external relations.

What made the poll unique was the implementation of a discussion and expert panel questionnaire, along with additional follow-up polls.

According to James Fishkin, director of the Stanford Deliberative Democracy Lab and developer of the deliberative polling method, participants were probed with different pros and cons surrounding the proposals; Fishkin noted that the initial impressions of those surveyed were tested against adverse opinions, which pressured individuals to consider more aspects of the proposals.

After the initial survey, group discussions and expert answers to questions on the proposals, the respondents were asked to retake the deliberative poll.

According to UC Berkeley professor of political science and public policy and director of research for California 100 Henry Brady, the second poll reveals that Californians want “better-performing government, transparency and to solve problems.”

A proposal for strengthening civics requirements in California high schools showed the most significant change in support after deliberation, with 68.9% supporting it in the initial poll and an increase to 80.3% in support after deliberation.

Other proposals such as free, universal mental health care and the expansion of “one-stop shops” for local permits also showed a significant increase in support in comparison to the initial survey.

One particular result that caught Brady’s attention was the lack of partisanship surrounding mental health care and other issues that typically correlate to specific party beliefs.

“You find often with polls that deal with issues that are political at that moment, there you get division,” Brady said. “Look into the future and come up with ideas that are novel and haven’t been politicized; there you find a lot of agreement.”

Fishkin noted that the deliberative poll results and process can provide a guide to responsible advocacy, which encourages a “democracy when the people are thinking.”

As for the implementation of the majority-favored proposals, Brady noted that the publication and analysis of poll results was a first step. On Friday night, the Commonwealth Club, a large public affairs forum headquartered in California, discussed the results of the poll, noting both predicted and surprising results.

Although actual policies have yet to be enforced, Brady said the poll’s focus on solutions and the future made participants more optimistic.

“It had given them hope, it had given them energy, and they were curious about the future of California,” Brady said.

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APRIL 23, 2023