Letter: Deliberative polling involves ordinary citizens in democratic process

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The Independent Online
Sir: 'Debate . . . reveals changing face of nation's views' (9 May)? I don't think so]

In the light of classic studies of conformity (eg, Asch, 1952, and Milgram, 1963), one would expect that any group or individual faced by the evidence of a battery of experts would prove flexible on points that were only loosely held and which seemed susceptible to scientific proof, and inflexible regarding opinions based on gut reactions rather than logical thought.

So, what did the results of the 'deliberative polling' exercise reveal? Well, they showed that the participants wanted fewer people to go to prison (because prisons, according to the experts, don't work), and at the same time they wanted prisons made tougher, upheld the value of capital punishment and said that a life sentence should mean life]

A contradiction in terms - or validation of Asch, Milgram et al?

I suspect that many social psychologists could have told Professor Fishkin how this exercise would turn out without the need to take 300 people to Manchester for the weekend. But it wouldn't have been half as much fun]

Yours faithfully,



East Sussex

9 May