Public Consultation

Public consultation is the process by which the public’s input on matters affecting them is sought. There is no perfect way to consult the public. Every method has advantages and disadvantages. Methods of public consultation vary mainly in terms of who is consulted and whether the consultation involves formal deliberation. The presence of deliberation makes the difference between raw and refined public opinion. The difference between raw and refined public opinion was well dramatized by the Public Affairs Act of 1975. (Also see the Dubious Polling Awards.) The following discussion is based on Fishkin (2009, ch. 1-3).

Forms of consultation
  Method of selection
Public opinion 1. Self-selection 2. Semi-random sample 3. Random sample 4. Everyone
A. Raw 1A SLOP 2A Unscientific poll 3A Scientific poll 4A Election
B. Refined 1B Discussion groups 2B Citizen jury 3B Deliberative poll 4B "Deliberation Day"
An acronym for Self-selected Listener Opinion Poll.
2A Unscientific poll
Collecting raw public opinion using sampling methods that fall short of random sampling.
3A Scientific poll
Random sampling of raw public opinion.
4A Election
The question is put to every registered voter.
1B Discussion groups
Serious deliberation among a self-selected group.
2B Citizen jury
People are selected using stratified sampling or some other approximately random sampling method to deliberate on an issue.
3B Deliberative poll
More than 100 participants are recruited using random sampling to deliberate on an issue.
4B "Deliberation Day"
Everybody participates in face-to-face discussions in randomly assigned discussion groups.

The following video may be informative if you are unfamiliar with deliberative polls. Herein Jane Mansbridge, Howard Rheingold and David Weinberger discuss deliberative polling with Jim Fishkin at the 2010 Personal Democracy Forum in New York. Fishkin summed up their value in one sentence: "Deliberative Polls empower the public rather than manipulate the public."

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This section was compiled by Joshua Pritikin.