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New Method of Scientific Deliberative Polling Yields Great Results on U.S. Budget

   In the Fall of 2000, the Center on Policy Attitudes (COPA) (www.policyattitudes.org) developed a new method of scientific deliberative polling.  It went something like this:

     A sample of 712 Americans were selected randomly around the country.  They were asked to look at the 1999 U.S. budget and see how the money was actually spent by the federal government.  Then they were asked to reallocate it according to what they thought were the most important ways to spend the money.

     The differences were startling.   For example, this representative sample of American citizens assigned 71% of the budget surplus to reinforcing Social Security and Medicare plus paying down the national debt, while just 18% was assigned to tax relief and 11% was given over to new government spending.

     Dennis Kull, the director of the project--which is located at the University of Maryland--put it like this: "...the public is so often assumed to be preoccupied with the short-term gratifications of tax cuts and spending increases, but when given the chance, they opt for spending most of the surplus on the long-term considerations of Social Security, Medicare and the national debt."

 

     The uniqueness of this poll came via a collaboration between COPA and a California-based internet research and polling company called Knowledge Systems.  After all, how can the usual scientific polling telephone method be used in such a survey?  How can you ask the respondents to look at the past budget, or listen to it over the phone, and then think about how to reallocate it?  Impossible.

     Knowledge Networks (www.knowledgenetworks.com) installs Web-TVs in the homes of tens of thousands of people randomly selected throughout the United States.  Their technicians put the systems in, instruct the citizens in how to use it, and then are willing to answer any questions about the system afterwards.   The citizens, in return, agree to answer 10 minutes of questions once a week--according to their own convenience.

     This allowed COPA to put the information about   the budget on the web and then have the respondents to their poll look at the diagrams and gave them plenty of time to think about it, discuss it with family and friends, and then reallocate the funds as they saw fit.

     Thus, a new method of internet based scientific deliberative polling has been born and is in the process of development.  In addition, as with the other methods of scientific deliberative polling described and linked in this website, the citizens once again have shown a great interest and enthusiasm in thinking about and solving difficult political problems.      

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