About the California Considers Deliberative Poll®
The California Considers Deliberative Poll engaged a representative sample of 719 Californians to deliberate on the future of the state of California across 56 diverse policy proposals. The proposals were derived from research conducted in the spring and summer of 2022 by research institutes and centers throughout the state as part of the California 100 Initiative, which is incubated at the University of California and Stanford University. This poll was designed to function in two distinct ways:
As a Deliberative Poll®. Most polls represent the public’s surface impressions of sound bites and headlines. Deliberative Polling® takes a different approach. After a random sample completes a baseline poll on critical issues, participants review briefing materials and engage in dialogue in small groups with each other as well as with competing experts through moderated panels. Then after deliberations, participants are asked the original questions again to track any changes in opinions.
As a futures thinking experiment. At the outset of this event, participants were shown a video of California’s possible future conditions in the year 2050, based on current trends. The video focused on three key drivers of California’s future: climate and environmental changes, income inequality, and the advancement of technology and innovation. Some participants—particularly, those reported in the data below—were asked to think about the policy proposals being deliberated from the perspective of Californians in the year 2050.
In February 2023, the California 100 Initiative, in collaboration with the University of California Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy and the Stanford University Deliberative Democracy Lab, convened a scientific sample of the residents of California to deliberate about major policy challenges for the state’s long-term future. More than 700 (719) residents of California from all over the state, spent an entire weekend deliberating in moderated small group discussions and plenary sessions in which they got answers to their questions from competing experts.
The participants used new technology to deliberate in video-based discussions (the Stanford Online Deliberation Platform) and they registered their opinions, both on first recruitment and at the end of the process, in confidential questionnaires. The scientific sample of deliberators can be compared to control groups which did not deliberate but took the same surveys in the time period.
During Deliberative Polls, participants discuss their views with fellow participants who also have been randomly selected and randomly assigned into small groups. To help prepare for the discussions, participants are sent briefing materials on the issues. They contain background analysis and competing arguments for and against each of the policy proposals. Participants deliberate in the small groups and then arrive at key questions to be posed to competing experts in the plenary sessions. A separate control group takes the initial and final surveys but does not deliberate.
While the briefing materials are generally long documents, there are shorter executive summaries of them for each of the four sessions. We tell participants that we hope they will read the entire document, but we realize everyone’s time varies and we tell them not to worry if you do not get the chance to read the document before they join. The written briefings are supplemented by video versions of the materials, each about 5 minutes long, played before each session.
In this statewide, controlled experiment we learned how Californians think about their future—when they really think about the issues in-depth and on the basis of vetted and balanced information. The method is Deliberative Polling and it has been employed in more than 120 cases in 50 countries and jurisdictions around the world. But it has never before been used to probe opinions about the long-term future.