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The critics say the National Issues Conference was not a poll so much as an expensive stunt that can't be repeated (its price tag came to almost $4-million). They also say that polling informed voters does not tell us much about average voters.

But Fishkin says he's not trying to improve on the accuracy of conventional polling so much as trying to make the polls more useful to the nation. Call him an idealist, but he says his goal is to combine democracy and polling technology. "Hopefully, it's a new way to use the technology of public-opinion polling to produce a result that is thoughtful, substantive, and representative. Most polling is representative, but it's not deliberative. National issues forums can be deliberative, but they're not representative. This is the only way I know that is representative and deliberative at the same time."

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