Deliberative Polling Discovery: Taxes Create Great Weather


The other day I reported on the Deliberative Polling initiative that has been going on this weekend in the L.A. County town of Torrance.

Deliberative polling, a hybrid focus group, town hall and expert panel, was developed in the early 1990s by the Stanford communications professor Jim Fishkin.Randomly selected voters are brought together to be polled on their opinions, lectured by experts, interned in breakout sessions, then polled again to see how their opinions change. The goal is to get a sense of how voters would lean if they were, in the opinion of the pollsters, better educated. 

While I think the research structure of deliberative polling is fatally flawed by the presumption that the pollsters know what constitutes adequate knowledge of public affairs, the process itself is potentially interesting.

It would, for example, be interesting to see a random set of voters get browbeaten for two days not by good-government think tanks, politicians and apparatchiks but by a different set of experts whose default presumption is that holders of state power are no less self-interested than any other people.

That is clearly not the case with the Torrance event, where the above-the-line talent includes L.A. City Councilman Paul Krekorian and former Schwarzenegger cabinet member Sunne Wright McPeak, who now heads a non-profit devoted to closing the "digital divide." 

As this sampling of tweets from the white-hot center of the deliberiffic action shows, the participants in the What's Next, California? event have not, as initial reports suggested, risen so far above politics as usual that the city of Torrance is in imminent danger of escaping Earth's gravitational pull.

Tweets in reverse chronological order, just like life: 

Epic Quote: "I'll pay my high California taxes. I call it the 'weather tax.' I just want some accountability."

Fascinating discussion of taxes. 1 thing clear: Prop 13 as it stands is a big obstacle to raising revenue. 

"Ppl caught w joint shd be made to clean up streets, graffiti not in jails"

Actually, random sample was drawn from CA registered voters. Supposedly, it matches CA overall pop. pretty well.

I think a young man in this group has been writing a group manifesto—wonder what that's all about? 

participant: we're all gonna have to pay to get out of this mess. #prop13

What made this wknd great was how we discussed the structures of govt without regard to political opinion. 

Methodology claims to avoid groupthink b/c it doesn't require consensus, but this group is trying to get there anyway…

Some scary misconceptions here & there but yes:"@kathayccc:Amazing how smart #Nextca participant discussion is. I'd let them govern anyday!"

New group debating piecemail approach vs overhauling all of #prop13.

Sen Michael Rubio "We need performance measures to be accountable to our constituents."

Participant: we really need an org chart of CA government Wonderful! Should help.

Hero Manuel Pastor doubles down on Low's argument: economic inequity correlates to economic underperformance 

Prop 13 voters didn't realize…

real esprit de corps developing in some of the groups. Very cool to see—civic engagement FTW!

This goes way beyond PowerPoint…

@GoldenStLiberty, maybe this convo too complex 4 Twitter (what?!?), but I don't understand your point…

participant thinks that California's college tuition is $0… 

Okay, the wheels really seemed to come off the car during the session. Issues too abstract? Not framed well? Not sure… 

biggest policy winner of #nextca so far: unicameral legislature with more reps.

Nazi comparisons?!? NorCal/SoCal divide?!? This convo is losing ppl, quick

participant pushing back: remember the people who designed this have an agenda, and if we don't like this, we need to tell them.

(Note a surprise appearance by frequent Hit & Run commenter and tireless blogger Golden State Liberty.)

Results of the deliberative poll will be released later this week by the Commonwealth Club

Meanwhile, back in California, Joe Vranich estimates that the rate at which businesses are departing the Golden State has increased five-fold in the last two years.