Search This Blog

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Deliberation in Pennsylvania

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:

The gnarled, centuries-old issue of Allegheny County's divided governance is about to get a fresh look from 300 people who don't even know it yet.

A sample of 300 residents, chosen to reflect the county's demographic and partisan makeup, will be a centerpiece of an effort spearheaded by The Pittsburgh Foundation to get governmental cooperation moving, officials said Friday. The effort is not meant to replace a stalled, 27-month-old push to merge the county with the city of Pittsburgh but is in part a recognition that other avenues may be more productive.


The 300 residents will be engaged in what's called a "deliberative poll." They'll be asked to review materials on policing, broken into small groups and invited to submit questions to a panel of experts. After they've talked with the experts, they'll be polled, and their attitudes will be distilled into a series of pie charts, said Robert Cavalier, a Carnegie Mellon University philosophy professor who heads the Program for Deliberative Democracy. The program has been leading deliberative polls since 2004.

Participants "bring with them their own experience," said Dr. Cavalier, and typically develop "a deep appreciation of the details" when they're invited to study an issue. The result is a "much richer and more nuanced appreciation of citizens' opinions" than can be had through a phone poll.

See also an article in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.