Letter: Deliberative polling involves ordinary citizens in democratic process

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Channel 4 programme last Sunday night and your own coverage of 'deliberative polling' demonstrate quite clearly the benefits of enabling ordinary citizens to engage with social issues in depth, with direct access to experts and politicians. What was heartening was the extent to which all those involved showed a concern for what is happening in society, even though most of them would ordinarily be deemed to be part of the silent majority. It demonstrates the urgent need to find new ways to involve people in the democratic processes.

However, Professor Fishkin's claim that deliberative polling, which took place over a single weekend, transformed those present into 'ideal' and fully informed citizens is simplistic. Your own graphs show that people do not transform their views overnight, but gradually reconstruct them over a long period of time. Bring those same citizens back in three months, subject them to the same process and their views of law and order would modify yet again. Citizen education is a lifelong process and needs to begin long before people are old enough to vote (as the programme clearly demonstrated). Your experiment has shown that citizenship education should take its rightful place in the core of the new national curriculum.

Yours sincerely,

DON ROWE

Co-director

Citizenship Foundation

London, EC1

9 May

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