The Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University

June 23, 2020 Jaskiran Gakhal, Participedia Team
May 23, 2019 Scott Fletcher Bowlsby
September 18, 2017 Acvcom418
December 7, 2010 Acvcom418

Located at Stanford University, the Center for Deliberative Democracy uses Deliberative Polling® to research public opinion and democratic deliberation.

Mission and Purpose

The Center for Deliberative Democracy is located in the Department of Communication at Stanford University. This organization uses Deliberative Polling® to research about democracy and public opinion. The Center for Deliberative Democracy strives to make the general public more aware of public issues in order to make their decisions more deliberative.[1]

Origins and Development

The Center for Deliberative Democracy was established at Stanford University in 2003, where it currently conducts the research and practice of Deliberative Polling®. Previously, the center was under the name Center for Deliberative Polling and was located at the University of Texas at Austin, where Professor James Fishkin, the current director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford, served as director.

James Fishkin developed the concept of Deliberative Polling in 1988 in response to the somewhat surprising effects of mass media on public opinion and knowledge. Early communications scholars, such as Marshall McLuhan, envisioned a world where advances in communicatory technologies such as print and radio would create a “global village,” where the public would be connected and informed on public policies and issues from all sides, including those that are least favorable to the individual, so that one may make a truly informed decision. Instead, mass media has caused the public to seek out media which represents views with which they agree and to be more focused on the entertainment value of media, dwindling campaigns to merely slogans and attack ads. Deliberative Polling was Fishkin’s institutional answer to how to make the public more informed through scientifically sampling citizens, three to four days of deliberation on public policies, and proper polling methods to have an end result of a more accurate public opinion. Essentially, deliberative polling is meant to show how the public would feel about public policies and issues if they were better informed and were able to discuss the issues on both the pro and con side of the argument.[2]

Professor James Fishkin has been working on his concept of Deliberative Polling for over twenty years throughout the U.S and various countries in the world, with the Center for Deliberative Democracy as the center for the research and practice of this method. The center has conducted over 50 such polls on every major continent.[3]

Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding

The Center for Deliberative Democracy is housed in the Department of Communication at Stanford University.[4] The CDD has received funding for an assortment of research and projects through various contributors. These include Stanford University, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation,[5] as well as individual donations,[6] and usage fees on Deliberative Polling, which is a registered trademark of James S. Fishkin.[7] The W. K. Kellogg Foundation awarded the Center $302,123 in 2006 and grant money from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has been used for the Michigan-based project entitled “Hard Times, Hard Choices,” the Deliberative Polling®: By the People project.[8]

Specializations, Methods and Tools

Citizens of the United States are often uninformed about important public issues. Conventional polls represent the public’s initial impressions of headlines and audio clips. Deliberative Polling® was developed by the founder of the CDD, James Fishkin, in an attempt to use both television and public opinion research in a new and productive way. The polling process reveals the conclusions the public would reach, if people were more informed and more involved by the public issues.[9]

Major Projects and Events

Since its first Deliberative Poll in 1994, the Center for Deliberative Democracy has led or supported over 50 such polls on every major continent. Participating countries have included the United States, the UK, China, and, most recently, Macedonia.[10] The CDD’s Deliberative Polling events include: 

Deliberative Polling in the Bududa and Butalejja Districts of Uganda

The UK Deliberative Poll on Crime

Tamale Deliberative Poll in Ghana

‘What’s Next California?’ Deliberative Poll

United States National Issues Convention Deliberative Poll

Deliberative Poll on Korean Reunification

Deliberative Polling on Vermont’s Energy Future

Deliberative Polling in Marousi, Greece

The San Mateo Deliberative Poll

A Deliberative Poll on Education Policy in Northern Ireland

Wenling City Deliberative Poll

Deliberative Pol on Japan’s Energy and Environmental Policy Options

Analysis and Lessons Learned 

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The CDD publishes reports on all its Deliberative Polls on its website.[11]


[1] “What is Deliberative Polling®?,”

[2] “What is Deliberative Polling®?,”

[3] “Deliberative Polling® Timeline,”

[4] “CDD,”

[5] “Stanford University,”

[6] “Donate,”

[7] “What is Deliberative Polling®?,”

[8] “Final Report: By the People – Hard Times, Hard Choices – Michigan Residents Deliberate,”

[9] “What is Deliberative Polling®?,”

[10] “Deliberative Polling® Timeline,”

[11] “Research,”

External Links

Official website: