British Journal of Political Science

Research Article

Disaggregating Deliberation’s Effects: An Experiment within a Deliberative Poll

Cynthia Farrar, James S. Fishkin, Donald P. Green, Christian List, Robert C. Luskin and Elizabeth Levy Paluck*


Using data from a randomized field experiment within a Deliberative Poll, this paper examines deliberation’s effects on both policy attitudes and the extent to which ordinal rankings of policy options approach single-peakedness (a help in avoiding cyclical majorities). The setting was New Haven, Connecticut, and its surrounding towns; the issues were airport expansion and revenue sharing – the former highly salient, the latter not at all. Half the participants deliberated revenue sharing, then the airport; the other half the reverse. This split-half design helps distinguish the effects of the formal on-site deliberations from those of other aspects of the treatment. As expected, the highly salient airport issue saw only a slight effect, while much less salient revenue-sharing issue saw a much larger one.

(Online publication March 22 2010)


* Farrar and Green: both at Yale University, Institution for Social and Policy Studies, and Department of Political Science, respectively; Fishkin: Department of Communication, Stanford University; List, Departments of Philosophy and Political Science, London School of Economics and Political Science; Luskin, Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin (email:; Paluck: Department of Psychology and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the annual meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, Boston, Mass., 2003, and at the ECPR General Conference, Marburg, Germany, 2003. The authors are grateful to Ethan Leib, the League of Women Voters of Connecticut Education Fund Inc.; The Guild Group and Regional Plan Association for assistance in organizing and carrying out the split-half Deliberative Poll; and to the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation, the Renee B. Fisher Foundation, Fannie Mae, William C. Graustein, the New Haven Savings Bank, the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority, the United Way of Greater New Haven and the United Illuminating Company for making the project possible. The Center for Deliberative Polling and the Public Policy Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin, the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and Yale University’s Institution for Social and Policy Studies also provided financial and in-kind support. The research and some of the analysis and writing were conducted while Fishkin and Luskin were Fellows at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, supported by grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (Grant 2000-5633), the Center General Fund and the University Research Institute of the University of Texas. Alice Siu contributed invaluable research assistance. Deliberative PollingS0007123409990433_eqnU1 is a trade mark of James S. Fishkin. Any fees from the trade mark are used to support research at the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University.