Carnegie Mellon University

Program for Deliberative Democracy

Department of Philosophy


States were once seen as the ‘laboratories of democracy’ with an emphasis on local concerns and values. But today state legislatures have become the battlefield for partisan politics in the worst sense. Often packed with primaries won by the more extreme candidates in gerrymandered districts, they tend to represent a minority of the state’s electorate.

In this regard, it is more important than ever to find ways to represent the informed opinion of the citizens. The use of rigorous Deliberative Polling®techniques developed by James Fishkin at Stanford or systematic convenience samples using survey registries can actually provide state legislators with the detailed information about public opinion that they need when considering policies affecting the citizens of their state. 

Buy-in from a range of bi-partisan representatives as well as the Office of the Governor will be necessary for the results of the Deliberative Forums to have ‘consulting power.’ 

Campuses as host sites in demographically diverse areas across the state can provide a quality assured setting for registration and staffing support for all aspects in the design process, including same day quantitative data entry of the surveys for quick initial results.

The Issue of Marriage in America (State of Pennsylvania)

On September 27th 2008, a statewide deliberative poll(R)  on “The Issue of Marriage in America” was conducted in order to determine citizen opinions regarding a proposed PA Marriage Protection Amendment. This amendment would define marriage as that between a man and a woman and would not recognize any functional equivalence to such an arrangement (e.g., civil unions).

The Issue of Abortion in America

In 2018 the Program ran a state-wide deliberative forum on the issue of abortion and presented its results to the PA House Caucus on Healthcare and Women. As a result of the 2022 Dobbs decision, the Program is developing new materials for fair use by groups and organizations wishing to hold citizen and student deliberative forums on the current situation regarding Abortion in America.

Go to the 2018 Deliberative Forum for project description and project materials.

Go to the 2022 "Roe v Dobbs" page for beta materials for use in current Deliberative Forums.