Americans moderate views in deliberative democracy experiment

( -- Liberal and conservative citizens weighing options for reducing the national debt moderated their views as a result of deliberation in the largest experiment in deliberative democracy ever. They also made hard choices about spending cuts and tax increases, reported political scientists from the University of California, Riverside, UC Berkeley and Harvard University.

Their study – “The Difference that Makes” – issued Dec. 2 found that 3,500 Americans who participated in a national town hall on the federal budget June 26 came up with some of the same recommendations as the chairs of President Obama’s bipartisan debt commission, but also differed on some important issues. The Obama commission issued its report earlier this week and is expected to take a final vote on the recommendations today.

Participants in the daylong June town hall meetings – convened by the nonpartisan advocacy group America Speaks in 19 cities and online – favored raising taxes on the very wealthy, raising the corporate income tax rate, and establishing a carbon tax and a security transaction tax. They also supported cuts in national defense and military spending.

“The budget deficit and federal debt are clearly issues about which ordinary Americans care a great deal and are willing to make difficult trade-offs,” said Kevin Esterling, associate professor of political science at the University of California, Riverside and one of the study’s authors.

Funded by a $300,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Esterling and researchers Archon Fung from Harvard Kennedy School and Taeku Lee from UC Berkeley analyzed responses from 3.500 people selected to participate in the national town hall on the U.S. budget and economy as well as a control group chosen to mirror the town hall participants. Those participants represented a cross-section of Americans recruited by local nonpartisan groups to reflect diversity in race, gender, income and political ideology.

America Speaks distributed nonpartisan reading material developed in consultation with an ideologically diverse national advisory committee about the budget and public priorities. Participants were randomly assigned to small groups where they discussed their preferences for allocating money and setting priorities, including how to cut spending and/or raise taxes.

Study participants evaluated 42 reform options that included tax increases and spending cuts. Nearly two-thirds of the groups taking part in the discussion were able to develop compromise packages that would reduce the deficit by $1 trillion or more. The researchers said an important trend in this deliberation was moderation. Conservatives became more willing to support tax increases and reductions in defense spending and liberals became more willing to decrease spending on some public programs.

Deliberative democracy relies on popular consultation to make policy and encourages citizens to engage in an intellectual way with their government, a process that researchers believe improves knowledge about issues and policies, trust in political institutions and engagement with the political process, said Esterling, who is one of only a few political scientists conducting experimental research on deliberative democracy in the United States.

The idea of deliberative democracy is that when people sit down and talk about issues they are more likely to listen to others and temper their own views, he said. “It might not change your position, but it might help you understand the rationale of people who differ from you. That is important in a democracy. It’s important that we can disagree in a way that’s reasonable and respectful of other opinions.”

“Overall, the Our Budget, Our Economy event appears to have achieved its goals of bringing together a diverse group of ordinary Americans to engage each other in constructive discussion,” the researchers wrote. “Both liberals and conservatives appear to have moderated in their policy views regarding spending cuts and tax increases. And the organizers appear to have been quite successful in creating a forum for open and balanced discussion, based on the self-reports of participants as well as the extensive observation by our 19 on-site research assistants.”

The tendency for liberals and conservatives to moderate their positions is quite encouraging, they researchers wrote.

“Public deliberation helps to reveal the considered opinions of citizens, a kind of opinion policy-makers should care about,” they said.

“At the end of the day, participants at the town hall meetings had the chance to choose a single most important message to politicians. The vast majority of participants indicated they wanted politicians to set aside partisan bickering in favor of finding solutions to America’s problems. This sounds like good advice to us.”

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Dec 03, 2010
Dig a bit deeper, do your reasearch, is Deliberative Democracy really non-partisan? Not really when do a bit of research on their facilitators, most of them are social activists and Obama suporters. But wait they say they have a couple of toten republicans on their boards, unfortuantely they are Rhinos.

But hey, we can trust them because they are progressives and they moderate conservative beliefs through the use of trained facilitators leading people through a set of discussions.

We should trust them because facts to the contrary, they say they are nutral, they say they are non-partisan, and since they are an progressive organization we should like lemmings trust them.

Unfortuantely Conservatives fall for this trap all too often and don't know they are being played for fools by progressives. These type of meetings have set outcomes and if you think you can change the outcome, your mistaken.

Dec 03, 2010
I don't care about debating issues. You say up, I say down, etc. Just don't lie about the facts.

What I find sickening is manipulation. These meetings and those like it, already have a scripted ending and are a waste of time for any conservative who attends.

Why cant progressive groups be honest and say, hey were progressives and we think you conservatives are wrong. Lets get together and we will show you why you are wrong. No they perfer to say they are non partisan, neutral, and the out come in not pre-determined.

What they fail to say is they are partisan and the press release for the meeting is already written. before the meeting has even begun.

Dec 03, 2010
What they fail to say is they are partisan and the press release for the meeting is already written. before the meeting has even begun.

The tendency for liberals and conservatives to moderate their positions is quite encouraging, they researchers wrote.

How is this a manipulation of the facts? Are you really saying consensus is impossible?

Dec 03, 2010
Hey free. I'm a progressive. I think you conservatives are wrong. I and other progressives have tried several times to explain to you conservatives why we think you're wrong. But you apparently seem to think it's more important to smear research and attack individuals who prove you wrong. Liberals and progressives aren't the ones publicly declaring the intention to make the President fail, even when the President was a Republican. Conservatives are the ones benefiting from a lack of public deliberation, and so as a group they have no intention of deliberating anything with anybody.

Dec 03, 2010
They aren't. Conservative policies are. Unemployment benefits demonstrably improve the economy, by allowing consumers to continue the consumption that they need to live and maintain their lifestyles. I do not want the Bush tax cuts on the richest to be permanent, I want them to go back to the rates they had under Eisenhower. I don't want less Social Security and Medicare, I want more programs in that vein. I want less corporate subsidy, including military spending, and more human subsidy. And I want your despicable, vengeful, desert demon worship out of my government and my schools.

Dec 03, 2010
The tax rate in the 60's was north of 70%. And what did cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans actually do? It didn't grow the economy, it resulted in the stagflation of the 70s. Guess what's going on right now? That's right, stagflation. That's what happens when you cut taxes that don't need to be cut and increase spending on corporate subsidies that don't need to be subsidized.

Dec 04, 2010
Sad the above comments ignore deliberative democracy is tea party not socialist in spirit--replacing government by a corrupt political elite and putting ordinary folk in the driving seat. Socialism is about getting experts in power that known better than ordinary folk what is best for them. Deliberative democracy is the opposite: getting rid of the "expert" middlemen of politics that have taken over democracy and returning power to citizens.

For another attempt see

Dec 04, 2010
The current conservatives do not want to deliberate at all. Obfuscation and confrontation are their calling card. This is not how it has always been.

Deliberation between both parties has always resulted in a more reasonable body of law as no one viewpoint has all the answers.

To argue against deliberation in politics is to want for totalitarian oligarchy.
I think should be added to the list given the way they write their headlines.
Oh look, Marjon is a McCarthyist.

Dec 04, 2010
SH must be pleased that Pelosi will not be Speaker next year.
I am quite pleased that she won't be speaker. I think she's a corrupt corporatist.
Note the tea party movement.
I'd rather note that the Tea Party movement candidates have requested over 1 billion in earmarks.
So much for controlling government spending.

Dec 04, 2010
This is the Manichean bedrock of radical belief, the foundation of its destructive agendas -- that the world is divided into the Haves and the Have Nots, the exploiters and the exploited, the oppressors and the oppressed, and that liberation lies in the elimination of the former and the dissolution of the dyad"

The world is actually divided into Moochers, Looters and Producers (with apologies to Rand, et. al.).

Dec 04, 2010
So much for controlling government spending.

There were no "tea party" members in Congress in 2010. Your opinions are skewed LEFT.

Dec 05, 2010
There were no "tea party" members in Congress in 2010. Your opinions are skewed LEFT.

You might actually want to click the link and read it. There were a great many who jumped on the TEA Party bandwagon.

I'm a centrist, stop trying to lump me with the left. It's ignorant and incorrect.

Dec 05, 2010
Why on earth would you trust any so-called third party's purity ratings? You want to know the truth about earmarks? Red states get back more for their projects from the feds than they paid in, while blue states get less. They are the epitome of hypocrisy when it comes to state and corporate welfare.

Dec 05, 2010
Because they don't want to save taxpayer's money, they want to funnel it to the people who paid to front their think tank ratings agency in the first place. It's amazing how you can be so trusting of people who have a blatant bias and are completely unaccountable while you despise democratically elected officials. It tells us what side you're on, and it's not the side of individual freedom.

Dec 05, 2010
SH must like earmarks as his state's delegation wastes so much taxpayer money.
We actually do fee for service up here so the whole tax thing is kinda a dead end with us. We don't request federal money to stay functional and typically have a surplus. We also have a terrible welfare system. Screws up the checkout lines in every store because the citizens vote republican locally and end up screwing up all the systems. Hence why we've dropped from the top ten for literacy. You know, the way you want it because you live in an upper class home and hock a hack seat in the local politician bunker.

Dec 05, 2010
live in an upper class home

Do you live in NH so you can have an 'upper class' home?

No. I live in NH to take care of my family because they live here.

Dec 06, 2010
Per capita gross national income:
USA: $33,070.30 per person
Canada: $20,789.50 per person

# 1 Luxembourg: $37,499.20 per person
# 2 Switzerland: $36,987.60 per person
# 3 Japan: $35,474.10 per person
# 4 Norway: $35,053.30 per person

Dec 07, 2010
I really like Jeff Flake and Joe Arpaio and other elected officials who understand that the taxpayer's money does not belong to the politicians.
Jeff Flake prefers to get massive contributions from billionaires so when they pull his strings he'll get right to work on killing their competition. Then again, it doesn't matter much because his own party removed him from every panel they could.
Republicans love their earmarks.
Joe Arpaio is one of the most corrupt people out there. He's being investigated by the FBI for criminal corruption and abuse of political power. Utterly laughable how you fall for the same propaganda tricks over and over and over.

Dec 07, 2010
All those Canadian physicians could help raise The United States lower life expectancy.
Canada: 81.16 years
United States: 78.14 years

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