The Southwestern Pennsylvania Program for Deliberative Democracy

About the Program

We employ a number of models for achieving deliberative democracy, one of which involves the protocols for deliberative polling. Developed and tested by Professor James Fishkin at Stanford University's Center for Deliberative Democracy, a Deliberative Poll gathers a representative sample of the community to discuss and respond to questions on pressing local, regional or national issues. 

While traditional public opinion polls solicit intuitive responses from people who may not be informed on the topic, a Deliberative Poll represents "what the electorate would think if, hypothetically, it could be immersed in an intensive deliberation process" (James Fishkin, Democracy and Deliberation).  A scientific random sample of the population will receive background information on the issues.  The sampled individuals then gather in small groups to discuss and deliberate the topic amongst themselves and with experts and then respond to a scientific poll.  The result of such a process reflects what the community as a whole would think about a particular issue or policy if that community had time to become informed about the issue.  What is emerging from deliberative polling is nothing less than the development of a new democratic decision-making process capable of articulating the informed voice of the people and potentially raising that voice to the level of “consulting power” as a consequence of those deliberations.

In 2004 we joined over a dozen other regions around the country in two deliberative events sponsored by PBS, in conjunction with Fishkin's Center for Deliberative Democracy. Working at the time with WQED Multimedia, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon we hosted discussions on National Security and the Global Economy. In 2005 we continued to work with Public Broadcasting's By The People on a national dialogue on Healthcare. Here, for the first time, we also focused on a specifically regional issue: The Pennsylvania State Senate's proposed cuts to Medicaid.

In recent years we have also worked at both the campus and neighborhood levels. Through our continued growth and experience, we believe that the Program for Deliberative Democracy can be positioned to take a leadership role in this area and possibly change the way we, as a country, practice our democratic ideals.

The work of the PDD is housed within Carnegie Mellon's Center for Ethics and Policy as part of the Department of Philosophy.



Robert Cavalier, Carnegie Mellon University

Affiliated Personnel

Tim Dawson, The Art of Democracy, Senior Consultant

Kenya Dworkin, CubaCivica
Various groups and individuals associated with particular projects

Current Project Partners

The Art of Democracy (Tim Dawson, Michael, Mages, Selena Schmidt)

Public Agenda (Nicole Cabal, Matt Leighinger)

GovTrack (Josh Tauberer, Ben Towne)

© Copyright 2005 Program for Deliberative Democracy