Getting the people on board

J Clive Matthews
31 October 2007

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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