All CDDRL News News July 21, 2022

Reforming Our Public Dialogue: New Deliberative Democracy Lab Joins CDDRL

The Deliberative Democracy Lab (formerly the Center for Deliberative Democracy) is devoted to research about democracy and public opinion obtained through Deliberative Polling® and related democratic processes.
Participants of the America in One Room national Deliberation Poll in Dallas, TX, 2019
Participants of the America in One Room national Deliberation Poll in Dallas, TX, 2019

The Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) is pleased to announce that effective July 1, 2022, the Center for Deliberative Democracy (CDD) has transitioned from the Department of Communication to CDDRL as the newly named Deliberative Democracy Lab (DDL).

For the last two decades, CDD has focused its work on the theory and practice of deliberative democracy, especially as implemented via Deliberative Polling® — a concept originated in 1988 by Professor James Fishkin, the Janet M. Peck Chair of International Communication. Sometimes called “the poll with a human face,” Deliberative Polling shows what the public would think about an issue both before and after it has considered an issue in depth under good conditions and with good information.

Under the helm of Fishkin and Associate Director Alice Siu, CDD has conducted over 100 Deliberative Polls in 34 countries at varying levels of government and on a variety of topics. In Mongolia, the Parliament passed ‘The Law on Deliberative Polling’ that requires a national Deliberative Poll prior to any amendments to the constitution. In 2019, a national Deliberative Poll was conducted for such a purpose, and the Parliament subsequently passed amendments based on the Deliberative Poll. Also in 2019, a national US Deliberative Poll called America in One Room brought together over 500 participants in-person to Dallas, TX, where participants discussed policy proposals ranging from immigration to climate to foreign policy. The project was a national controlled experiment with participants recruited by NORC at the University of Chicago and yielded immense media coverage, including a video produced by CNN, a tweet from President Barack Obama, and a front-page article in the New York Times, as well as several Op-Eds in the Times and elsewhere.

"A key tenet of CDDRL's research agenda is identifying ways to foster democracy, both domestically and around the world," said Mosbacher Director Kathryn Stoner. "The work being done by the Deliberative Democracy Lab (DDL) is intrinsically aligned with our Center's mission. The work that Jim Fishkin and his colleagues have already done is truly unique and field-defining. At CDDRL, we look forward to further building on this outstanding track record to establish the Deliberative Democracy Lab as the global hub for developing, administering, and analyzing deliberative polling. No other university has anything like it."

“We believe the methods of deliberative democracy can help cure the ills of our current politics — in the US and around the world,” shared Fishkin. “This partnership with CDDRL and FSI will give us a new basis for trying to make this happen. We are proud to join the impressive collection of scholars already at work here on issues of democracy and political reform.”

We believe the methods of deliberative democracy can help cure the ills of our current politics — in the US and around the world.
James S. Fishkin
Janet M. Peck Chair of International Communication and Director of the Deliberative Democracy Lab

Fishkin, who has been named a Senior Fellow at FSI, will continue to serve as the Lab’s Director alongside Siu as Associate Director, now a Senior Research Scholar at CDDRL. Larry Diamond, the Mosbacher Senior Fellow in Global Democracy at FSI, will also continue to be affiliated with the Lab as a faculty collaborator.

“In the United States and around the world, democracies must find new ways to elicit citizen engagement, deeper public participation in policy-making, and reduce toxic levels of political polarization,” said Diamond. “The method of Deliberative Polling that Jim Fishkin and Alice Siu have developed and applied worldwide has demonstrated impressive progress toward these goals, and it has been my honor to collaborate with them.”

Group of people deliberating around a table
A group deliberating during the America in One Room national Deliberation Poll in Dallas, TX, 2019

Rounding out the team for the newly formed Lab, Tom Schnaubelt, currently Director of the Haas Center for Public Service, will join DDL in a new role as Lecturer and Senior Advisor on Civic Education, effective August 1, 2022. “The Deliberative Democracy Lab is an exciting addition to the work of CDDRL, and as Senior Advisor, Tom Schnaubelt will greatly advance our efforts to promote deliberation and civic engagement among college students,” Diamond added.

Schnaubelt began his tenure at the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University in April 2009 and has been actively involved in developing innovative community engagement programs in higher education settings for nearly two decades. Prior to assuming the role of executive director at the Haas Center for Public Service, Tom served as dean for community engagement and civic learning at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and was the founding executive director of Wisconsin Campus Compact, where he provided leadership for a coalition of thirty-four college and university presidents and chancellors committed to the civic purposes of higher education.

“I’ve been increasingly concerned about the fragility of our democracy,” shared Schnaubelt. “I believe that sustaining, strengthening, and perhaps even saving our democracy is a prerequisite to creating a more just and sustainable world. I also believe that universities have a distinct and important role to play in advancing liberal democracy, particularly through the cultivation of democratic knowledge, habits, skills, and dispositions. As I begin this next chapter, I am grateful for the opportunity, and I am thrilled to be able to be a part of Stanford University’s efforts to build a more perfect union.”

“I believe that sustaining, strengthening, and perhaps even saving our democracy is a prerequisite to creating a more just and sustainable world, and that universities have a distinct and important role to play in advancing liberal democracy."
Tom Schnaubelt

As political polarization becomes a more urgent challenge to democracy in the United States and elsewhere, and as a growing number of democratic jurisdictions look for innovative ways to involve the public more meaningfully in decision-making, the demand for Deliberative Polls is increasing. In its new home at CDDRL, the Lab will be able to enhance its capacity to meet growing demands and expand the contributions it can make to both the study and the practice of deliberative democracy.

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