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CIS/SLATA Speaker Series: James Fishkin


April 14, 2008 12:45pm - 2:00pm


Most online public consultations are neither representative nor deliberative. This project was both. It is a national “Online Deliberative Poll” conducted in October 2007 about basic political reforms in the US. The process was a controlled field experiment in deliberation on four basic topics: participation, exercising choice, becoming informed and public service. In each case, a scientific sample deliberated about the pros and cons of specific reform proposals and had questions answered by experts representing different points of view. The results were aired nationwide on PBS in a program hosted by Jim Lehrer. The method may be of interest because it employed social science for a national online consultation and shed light on which reforms the public would support on reflection.

James S. Fishkin holds the Janet M. Peck Chair in International Communication at Stanford University where he is Professor of Communication and Professor of Political Science. He is also Director of Stanford's new Center for Deliberative Democracy and Chair of the Dept of Communication.

Fishkin received his B.A. from Yale in 1970 and holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale as well as a second Ph.D. in Philosophy from Cambridge.

He is the author of a number of books including Democracy and Deliberation: New Directions for Democratic Reform (1991), The Dialogue of Justice (1992 ), The Voice of the People: Public Opinion and Democracy (1995). With Bruce Ackerman he is co-author most recently of Deliberation Day (Yale Press, 2004). He is best known for developing Deliberative Polling® - a practice of public consultation that employs random samples of the citizenry to explore how opinions would change if they were more informed. Professor Fishkin and his collaborators have conducted Deliberative Polls in the US, Britain, Australia, Denmark, Bulgaria, China, Greece and other countries.

Fishkin has been a Visiting Fellow Commoner at Trinity College, Cambridge as well as a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and a Guggenheim Fellow.