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Cardinal Courses
Courses for credit

Deliberative Democracy in Theory and Practice: Deliberating the Issues that Divide Us and Beyond

Quarter-long course
Law, Policy & Justice
Deliberative Democracy in Theory and Practice: Deliberating the Issues that Divide Us and Beyond
American democracy is increasingly polarized and dysfunctional. Levels of public trust in the Congress and politicians are at virtually all-time lows, and so is the ability of members of different parties to work together in Washington, D.C., and in many state capitols, to find solutions to our major public policy problems. Much is written about the growing polarization of American society, yet public opinion polling suggests that the public is not as bitterly divided as the political class.<br>nOne perspective on the current crisis stresses the lack of opportunities for the American public to deliberate on key issues and challenges under good conditions - where they can receive balanced and informed briefings and talk with one another face to face, away from the glare of broadcast media and social networks that only reinforce their initial points of view. 'Good' conditions also provide trained moderators to encourage and ensure mutual respect for divergent points of view. When a representative, random sample of a population - be it a city or an entire nation - is brought together in this way to deliberate, while being polled on their opinions before and after deliberation, new insights emerge about what decisions 'the people' collectively might come to if they could talk in one room together as fellow citizens. We call this innovative method of democratic dialogue and opinion formation 'Deliberative Polling.' It has been used over 100 times in over 30 countries to help register public opinion in a more democratic and constructive fashion.nThis course will first examine basic theory on deliberative democracy, with emphasis on the state of polarization in American democracy and the issues that appear to most bitterly divide the American public. Then it will study the method of Deliberative Polling and look at a number of specific instances where it has been applied to help inform public policy dialogue or decision-making. We will read studies evaluating applications of Deliberative Polling in cities and countries around the world. We will watch documentary films describing the experience with deliberative polls in several settings. We will examine in detail some of the statistical polling results from previous Deliberative Polls to determine whether and why (and to what extent) people change their opinions on policy issues as a result of the deliberative process. As hands-on experience, students will prepare briefing materials and surveys for an upcoming Deliberative Polling experiment that will be implemented by a cross-institutional deliberative democracy practicum course that is being led by Stanford's Center for Deliberative Democracy and the Haas Center for Public Service. They may also contribute to the planned state wide deliberation on the future of California. In addition, students will engage in their own deliberations using the Stanford Platform for Online Deliberation, which has been deployed around the world. Students will complete background reading over the summer and will write short papers during the course analyzing specific previous experiences with Deliberative Polling.





June 26, 2023 | 12:00 AM

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