James Fishkin

 

principal investigator


James Fishkin
Professor, Communication and Political Science
Department of Communication
Stanford University

James Fishkin of Stanford University holds the Janet M. Peck Chair in International Communication. He is Professor of Communication, Professor of Political Science (by courtesy) and is also Director of Stanford’s Center for Deliberative Democracy and Chair of the Department of Communication. Fishkin received his B.A. from Yale in 1970 and holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale as well as a second Ph.D. in Philosophy from Cambridge. He is the author of numerous books including, most recently, When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation (2009). His previous books include Democracy and Deliberation: New Directions for Democratic Reform (1991), The Dialogue of Justice (1992 ), The Voice of the People: Public Opinion and Democracy (1995). With Bruce Ackerman he is co-author most recently of Deliberation Day (2004). With Peter Laslett he is also co-editor of volumes five, six, and seven of the Philosophy, Politics and Society series. Fishkin has been a Visiting Fellow Commoner at Trinity College, Cambridge as well as a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford (twice), a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and a Guggenheim Fellow.

 

 

Collaborators


Robert C. Luskin
Associate Professor, Government, Director for the Center for Deliberative Opinion Research
University of Texas at Austin

Alice Siu
Associate Director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy
Stanford University

Deliberative Democracy and the Virtues of Democratic Citizenship
The development of a “science of virtues” should include an account of conditions that facilitate the virtues of democratic citizenship. Both the normative and empirical aspects of such a project are contested and unsettled. On the normative side, some notions of democracy expect very little of ordinary citizens, others expect a great deal. On the empirical side, there have been a few suggestive findings but no systematic empirical research. This project will use Deliberative Polling data to examine the hypothesis that deliberation facilitates the virtues of democratic citizenship. Deliberative Polling is an attempt to pilot and study deliberative democracy with scientific samples of ordinary citizens. It embodies two fundamental values: political equality and deliberation. It is a modern version of a strategy of public consultation harking back to Ancient Athens where deliberating microcosms chosen by lot made important public decisions. For the development of a science of virtues, it offers unique data shedding light on the effects of deliberation on the development of citizen virtues such as public spiritedness, mutual respect, toleration, equal consideration, and the propensity to become informed and to participate.

The development of a “science of virtues” should include an account of conditions that facilitate the virtues of democratic citizenship. There has long been speculation that when citizens deliberate about public problems together, they develop certain virtues of citizenship. John Stuart Mill, drawing on his reviews of Alexis de Toqueville’s Democracy in America, thought that there were some distinctive institutions, “schools of public spirit” in which Americans discussed public issues and took responsibility for public decisions. Mill and Tocqueville were both thinking primarily of the jury and the New England town meeting, but Mill also emphasized ancient Athenian institutions. The idea was that when citizens discuss public problems together they begin to take responsibility for the broader public interest. This “public spiritedness” is one of the key dependent variables the project investigated. Other virtues of democratic citizenship include, but are not limited to, mutual respect, toleration, and willingness to seek and consider information from sources one is likely to disagree with (both persons and media sources). These “democratic virtues” allow citizens to participate constructively in collective public will formation. There is a lively debate in democratic theory about whether such a role for citizens is necessary or useful. What you think citizens should do depends on what you think democracies are for. The theory of deliberative democracy focuses on the institutional designs and social conditions that would make deliberation possible by the people themselves. And it is this theory that has been dismissed by many critics as being unrealistically utopian or at least over-optimistic about the capacities and propensities of ordinary citizens. Deliberative Polling®, as developed by James Fishkin, is an attempt to study deliberative democracy with scientific samples of ordinary citizens. It embodies two fundamental values: political equality and deliberation. For the development of a science of virtues, it offers unique data shedding light on the effects of deliberation on the development of citizen virtues. In a Deliberative Poll a scientific sample is asked survey questions before and after it is gathered for extended discussions for considering an issue under transparently good conditions: balanced materials, small group discussions with trained moderators, plenary sessions in which competing experts and policy makers respond to questions developed in the small groups, and an opportunity to register considered judgments at the end of the process in confidential questionnaires. The before- and after- deliberation results (typically after a weekend of deliberation with a sample of several hundred) offer a picture of what the people would think under good conditions. The resulting deliberative opinions are often an input to policy. The process has been used to bring wind power to Texas, sewage treatment plants and other infrastructure and budgeting changes to a township in China, a solution to a budget crisis in Rome and new policies toward the Roma in Bulgaria (all of these results can be found at http://cdd.stanford.edu). Hence the social science investigations take place under conditions where the participants often have good reason to believe that their opinions will have an impact.

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