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A Little Knowledge Goes a Long Way
Could deliberative polling smash the sound bite?
What is it that polls measure? Is it, as many critics charge, "top-of-the-head" responses about subjects that respondents know relatively little about? What would happen if people could learn about the issues, think them through, and discuss them freely before a poll? Would their opinions change? And if so, how?

Those questions have obsessed James Fishkin for many years. Fishkin, a political scientist at the University of Texas, wanted a way to combine "deliberation with representation." In other words, he wanted to know what the average American would think about political questions if he or she was informed about politics. Not a very radical idea?

Between January 19 and 21, Fishkin got a chance to find out, when the National Issues Convention was staged at the University of Texas in Austin.

Here's how it worked.

You can stop holding your breath. It turns out that people indeed change their minds when confronted with facts, opinions, and personalities (read The Voice of the People, Citizens Are the Stars in First Issues Forum, "Real People" Face Issues, Candidates in Experiment in Citizenship).

I suppose you're interested in more details on how those opinions changed?

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