Over 200 California public high school seniors from the Bay Area participated in a Deliberative Poll on the issues of voting rights and the value of being informed about politics and public policy. Students deliberated with one another and heard from leading experts in the field.
Problems and Purpose
For the first time, over 200 California public high school seniors from the Bay Area participated in a Deliberative Poll on the issues of voting rights and the value of being informed about politics and public policy. Over the course of one school day, students deliberated with one another on the Stanford University campus and had the opportunity to hear from leading experts in the field.
This Deliberative Polling event was prepared, conducted, and results were analyzed by Stanford undergraduates enrolled in Communication 138: Applying Deliberative Democracy, which was a course sponsored by the HAAS Center for Public Service and Center of Deliberative Democracy. This course aims not only to serve as a learning experience for the Stanford undergraduate students, but also to test the feasibility of high school students participating in a Deliberative Poll and to assess the results of the event.
In this report, we draw on the quantitative data from questionnaire results before and after deliberation. We also make use of qualitative data from the recordings of the small group and plenary sessions.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
High school seniors from four Summit Public Schools in Redwood City and San Jose participated in the Deliberative Poll – Everest and Summit from Redwood City and Rainer and Tahoma from San Jose. All the high school seniors were invited to take part in this event, therefore no method of sampling was employed. The high school students were all enrolled in a government/civics course during the time of the event, and participation in the Deliberative Poll complemented the curriculum of the students. The Summit Public School system is a charter school system where students enter into a lottery to attend the school. Although the student or student’s family must enter the lottery (which is free), students are chosen solely through a lottery system and not by merit, socio-economic status, or any other metric. Consequently, we are confident that the sample of students is a fairly accurate representation of youth from Redwood City and San Jose.
Methods and Tools Used
Typically, Deliberative Polls are conducted over an entire weekend; however, due to logistical concerns associated with high school students, this Deliberative Poll was completed in a single school day. To account for this condensed process, students were given a presentation about the method and the discussion topics prior to the day of the event. This presentation was presented after the administering of the pre-deliberation survey. The presentation was approximately 30 minutes and introduced the concepts present in the briefing materials and the practice of Deliberative Polling. A copy of the presentation is available upon request.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Participants in this Deliberative Poll experienced substantial opinion changes. On both topics, voting rights and being informed, there were significant changes in opinions and substantial knowledge gained by the high school students. In particular, students’ opinions on online voting changed the most. Prior to deliberation, 76% of people agreed that online voting should be implemented. After deliberation, this number dropped to 52%. Further, there was a large amount of no opinion reported on the pre-survey for the following proposals: Election Day Registration, DACA, and Voter ID laws. It also appears that the high school students did not know as much about these particular proposals. That is, when asked whether the government should allow individuals who receive Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), 12.4% of students responded with no opinion; however, after deliberation, only 1.96% of students responded that way.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
With permission from the high school students, the event’s small group discussion and plenary sessions were recorded. Transcripts from the event are not yet available, however, the research team listened to recordings for qualitative analysis. These recordings have assisted with determining and pinpointing the influence of the Summit Deliberative Poll on students’ opinions. There were three main findings from the small group discussions:
1. Students considered opposing viewpoints and used these viewpoints to complicate their current stances on policy proposals.
2. Students drew from their personal experiences to envision the possible impacts of policy proposals.
3. Students grappled with questions separate from the policy proposals that helped them better understand the underlying problems that proposals aimed to solve.
Taken directly from https://cdd.stanford.edu/2016/report-on-deliberative-polling-for-summit-public-schools-voting-rights-and-being-informed/