CASE

Twin Cities Election Forum

First Submitted By Annie Pottorff

Most Recent Changes By Scott Fletcher

General Issues
Governance & Political Institutions
Location
Minnesota
United States
Scope of Influence
Metropolitan Area
Links
https://jefferson-center.org/twin-cities-election-forum/
Start Date
End Date
Ongoing
No
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Research
Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
Approach
Consultation
Spectrum of Public Participation
Consult
Total Number of Participants
52
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Open to All
General Types of Methods
Deliberative and dialogic process
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Facilitate dialogue, discussion, and/or deliberation
Legality
Yes
Facilitator Training
Professional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Decision Methods
Idea Generation
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Report
Primary Organizer/Manager
Jefferson Center
Type of Organizer/Manager
Non-Governmental Organization
Funder
University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts’ Joan Aldous Innovation Fund
Type of Funder
Academic Institution
Staff
Yes
Volunteers
Yes
Types of Change
Changes in people’s knowledge, attitudes, and behavior

The forum, convened by the Jefferson Center, brought together 52 Twin-Cities area residents, who represented the metropolitan area demographically and politically, for 5 hours of discussion about the 2016 Presidential Election.

Problems and Purpose

The heated 2016 Presidential campaign cycle painted a picture of a country so at odds with itself that conversations between people with different political views seemed impossible. The Jefferson Center and University of Minnesota Researcher and lecturer C. Daniel Myers wanted to explore whether this was really the case: can voters, through deliberation, empathize and even collaborate with supporters of the opposing candidate?

The goal of this event was not to change the minds of voters on which candidate to support. Myers was interested in creating a mutual understanding among citizens with opposing political beliefs. To accomplish this goal, the Jefferson Center launched the Twin Cities Election Forum. The forum brought together 52 Twin-Cities area residents, who represented the metropolitan area demographically and politically, for 5 hours of discussion about the 2016 Presidential Election

Forum participants were charged with “producing a list of reasons why Twin Cities voters might support each of the major-party presidential candidates.”

Background History and Context

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Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

As consultants for the project, Jefferson Center staff joined Dr. Myers by training student facilitators and assisting in the design and execution of the event. The TCEF was financially supported by a grant from the College of Liberal Arts’ Joan Aldous Innovation Fund.

Participant Recruitment and Selection

The Jefferson Center selected participants to mirror, as nearly as possible, the demographic and political makeup of the seven county Twin Cities metropolitan area. They mailed an invitation to ten thousand addresses, randomly drawn from the list of registered voters in the seven-county metro area. 60 participants were selected from the applicant pool of 240, who matched the metro area’s demographic and political make-up. 52 people who were selected agreed to participate and attended the forum. Participants were paid a $75 stipend.

Methods and Tools Used

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What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

After arriving, forum participants completed surveys to assess their political attitudes. These surveys would help us track any attitude shifts during the forum. Attendees were then split into diverse small groups and listened to presentations from Chris Fields, Vice-Chair of the Minnesota Republican Party and Ken Martin, Chair of the Minnesota DFL Party, about each of the major party candidates. They had the chance to ask the speakers questions, and then started working on the list of reasons why they might support each candidate.

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

Beyond creating the list of reasons, we were wanted to know if this process would help supporters of each candidate understand the perspectives of “the other side.” We found that it did. By the end of the event, nearly all Clinton supporters said they could understand the perspective of someone who found the pro-Trump reasons convincing. Similarly, the majority of Trump supporters said they could understand pro-Clinton perspectives.

By asking supporters of each candidate to sit down and talk about their views, this forum helped both sides understand each other. They also recognized one another as fellow citizens, deserving of respect. While this mutual respect is sorely lacking on TV and social media, it is essential to maintaining a functioning democracy.

Analysis and Lessons Learned

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See Also

References

External Links

Forum Report

Notes

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