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Getting the people on board

About the author

A freelance writer and editor based in London, J Clive Matthews is Managing Editor of openDemocracy's EU and deliberative democracy blog, dLiberation.

In the real world he has co-authored two books and edited numerous others (ranging in subject-matter from movies to modern Russian politics), been acting editor on a glossy history and travel magazine, editorial consultant for a big name women's magazine, a freelance news editor for AOL UK, worked in both the House of Commons and the European Commission, and contributed to publications as diverse as Starburst and the Times Literary Supplement.

Best known as Nosemonkey online, he has been blogging about British and European politics daily for several years both at his own blog and sites like The Sharpener, General Election 2005 (now defunct), AgoraVox, France 24 and the Washington Post / Newsweek's Postglobal, as well as about movies for the BBC, and has been shortlisted for blog awards by the likes of the Guardian, Deutsche Welle International and the Weblog Awards, amongst others.

My concerns about the statistical representativeness of the Tomorrow's Europe poll remain, despite Professor Fishkin's response - though I accept that my complete lack of knowledge of statistical theory may well be the reason why the sample, to me, doesn't seem quite right (be it for a possible under-representation of eurosceptics or the definite over-representation of people with higher educational qualifications or from smaller EU member states).

Fishkin laid out three criteria for success: was it representative, was it deliberative, and will decision-makers listen? But these criteria leave off the single most important - will the people accept the method? Because the end result of deliberative polling must be to get the people to acknowledge that such polls genuinely do reflect what the situation would be if the people themselves were better informed and more politically engaged. Otherwise the responses will always be similar to those I highlighted from Margot Wallstrom's blog.

So, be it statistically representative or not, the key problem remains - with my apparent confusion merely highlighting the issue. Tomorrow's Europe was designed as an exercise in encouraging participation and engagement. To get people involved, simplicity and transparency is key - both of process and of results. If - after nearly seven weeks spent covering the poll in-depth and questioning key organisers - I still don't quite understand how it all works or whether it should be listened to, what chance have the public as a whole?

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