J Clive Matthews https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/3257/all cached version 12/02/2019 07:34:57 en J Clive Matthews https://www.opendemocracy.net/author-profile/j-clive-matthews <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> J Clive Matthews </div> </div> </div> <p> A <a href="http://www.jcm.org.uk">freelance writer and editor</a> based in London, J Clive Matthews is Managing Editor of openDemocracy&#39;s EU and deliberative democracy blog, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/dliberation/">dLiberation</a>. </p> <p> 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&#39;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 <a href="http://www.visimag.com/starburst/">Starburst</a> and the <a href="http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/the_tls/">Times Literary Supplement</a>.<br /> </p> <p> Best known as <a href="http://www.jcm.org.uk/blog/">Nosemonkey</a> online, he has been blogging about British and European politics daily for several years both at his own blog and sites like <a href="http://thesharpener.net/">The Sharpener</a>, General Election 2005 (now defunct), <a href="http://www.agoravox.com/auteur.php3?id_auteur=4206">AgoraVox</a>, <a href="http://www.france24.com/france24Public/en/news/world.html">France 24</a> and the Washington Post / Newsweek&#39;s <a href="http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/postglobal/">Postglobal</a>, 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. </p><div class="field field-au-shortbio"> <div class="field-label">One-Line Biography:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> &lt;p&gt; A &lt;a href=&quot;http://www.jcm.org.uk&quot;&gt;freelance writer and editor&lt;/a&gt; based in London, J Clive Matthews is Managing Editor of openDemocracy&amp;#39;s EU and deliberative democracy blog, &lt;a href=&quot;http://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/dliberation/&quot;&gt;dLiberation&lt;/a&gt;. &lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt; 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&amp;#39;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 &lt;a href=&quot;http://www.visimag.com/starburst/&quot;&gt;Starburst&lt;/a&gt; and the &lt;a href=&quot;http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/the_tls/&quot;&gt;Times Literary Supplement&lt;/a&gt;.&lt;br /&gt; &lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt; Best known as &lt;a href=&quot;http://www.jcm.org.uk/blog/&quot;&gt;Nosemonkey&lt;/a&gt; online, he has been blogging about British and European politics daily for several years both at his own blog and sites like &lt;a href=&quot;http://thesharpener.net/&quot;&gt;The Sharpener&lt;/a&gt;, General Election 2005 (now defunct), &lt;a href=&quot;http://www.agoravox.com/auteur.php3?id_auteur=4206&quot;&gt;AgoraVox&lt;/a&gt;, &lt;a href=&quot;http://www.france24.com/france24Public/en/news/world.html&quot;&gt;France 24&lt;/a&gt; and the Washington Post / Newsweek&amp;#39;s &lt;a href=&quot;http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/postglobal/&quot;&gt;Postglobal&lt;/a&gt;, 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. &lt;/p&gt; </div> </div> </div> Anonymous author J Clive Matthews Wed, 31 Mar 2010 10:02:13 +0000 Anonymous author and J Clive Matthews 53245 at https://www.opendemocracy.net An attempt at a conclusion https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/an_attempt_at_a_conclusion Today dLiberation is coming to an end - for the time being at least. I&#39;ve spent the last 24 hours trying to come up with some kind of neat final post, wrapping up all the various issues we&#39;ve been covering here over the last few weeks, and laying down a final judgement on the successes and failures of the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe deliberative poll.<br /> <br /> But, of course, it&#39;s just not that simple. I&#39;ve jotted down (literally) thousands of words today - re-writing, cutting and pasting, editing and starting again from scratch countless times - only to realise that there is no short, simple conclusion here. Because almost all points that could be considered failures with the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll could equally apply to all other forms of representative democracy.<br /> <br /> All forms of representative democracy are more or less flawed when you look at the details. Constituencies are not the same size, minorities end up under-represented, voters fail to turn out, one vote amongst millions breeds apathy, different voting systems can lead to either political stalemate - as in Belgium at the moment - or parties gaining sizable parliamentary majorities thanks to picking up a few extra votes in a small number of marginal constituencies - as in Britain.<br /> <br /> At the last British general election, Labour won 55% of the seats in the House of Commons with just 35% of the vote (which was itself, thanks to poor turnout, only 22% of the electorate), while the Conservatives ended up with 30% of the seats with 32% of the vote. Labour&#39;s additional 3% of the vote led to a 25% advantage in seats. At the same time, the Cabinet - the executive - is appointed by a Prime Minister who runs the government not on a popular, personal mandate, but because he was chosen by his party, not the people (or, in the case of the current Prime Minister, because of an agreement made between two people in an Islington restaurant a decade and a half ago, combined with the lack of a viable alternative). The second chamber in the UK is made up of appointed, permanent peers. In the US, the second chamber treats California as an equal to Rhode Island, despite the disparity in population and economic might. All democracies involve party systems, where groupthink dominates and minority voices are drowned.<br /> <br /> This, however, hardly anyone acknowledges. It is far easier to criticise the new than to look in detail at the old. The debate over the EU is a prime case in point - one of the things that always amazes me about the British anti-EU arguments is just how many of them can be applied to the government in Westminster as much as the proto-government in Brussels. The Commission draws up all the legislation without any democratic involvement? Same as the Civil Service. European Commissioners are unelected? So are the Permanent Secretaries at the various government departments. The Council of the European Union isn&#39;t directly elected? Neither&#39;s the Cabinet. Some EU laws can come in to force with little in the way of analysis from an elected body? What about statutory instruments?<br /> <br /> The problem deliberative polling faces as it attempts to be accepted as a new way of giving the people a voice in policy making is the same as that faced by all other new methods. Innovation is mistrusted - the consensus always seems to be better the devil you know.<br /> <br /> It is also far easier to find fault than to come up with practical alternatives - and it is very easy to find fault with pretty much every suggestion that has ever been made to encourage greater political participation. Proponents of proportional representation, for example, can agree that first past the post is bad, but not on which alternative system is best - and all are more complex than the existing method, which leads to further misunderstandings. Misunderstanding breeds distrust even more than innovation.<br /> <br /> It&#39;s all very well the organisers of the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll claiming that their methods are &quot;scientific&quot; and &quot;balanced&quot; - but to verify these claims involves far too much in-depth investigation for most people to attempt it, because such polls are so complex in their organisation and structure. Referenda, on the other hand, are easy to understand - hence their popularity with the people.<br /> <br /> In fact the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll was a perfectly good attempt to do what it set out to do. It was, despite my doubts, a fairly good representative sample of the population of the EU - it may not be statistically perfect, but then nothing ever is. From what I can tell, the briefing materials offered both sides of the argument in a fair, if necessarily simplistic manner. The small group discussions that I sat in on did appear to feature some proper debate, and were well moderated without the participants being obviously led to any one conclusion - and the final poll seems to show that opinions were changed as a result.<br /> <br /> However, I cannot see such methods being accepted by the public at large - because to be told &quot;this is what you would think if you knew what you were talking about&quot; will always smack of patronising elitism. Yet without the acceptance of the public - notably not one of the three criteria for success laid out by Professor Fishkin - such innovative attempts to increase participation are doomed to failure.<br /> <br /> An added problem is that if there&#39;s one trend in Western democracies during the last three decades or so, it is a tendency towards scepticism and mistrust of the political class. Be it Watergate or the dodgy dossier before the Iraq war, the public has learned not to believe what they are told by anyone official - and having such a poll conducted in the European Parliament, organised by a pro-EU thinktank set up by a former President of the Commission, and part-funded by the European Commission as part of a Commission initiative, is naturally going to make it look official, whether the EU institutions themselves had any direct input or not.<br /> <br /> But even ignoring the perception of official status, the complexity of the deliberative polling method is always going to be its downfall when it comes to public acceptance - because there are simply too many areas to be sceptical about. A referendum? Fine - simple and easy to understand. A system of gauging public opinion that involves a &quot;scientific&quot; selection, &quot;balanced&quot; briefing materials and &quot;moderated&quot; debate? All three words in inverted commas are instantly going to raise suspicions - &quot;scientific&quot; sounds too much like the obfuscation of a shampoo advert, &quot;balanced&quot; sounds too much like the utterly misleading slogan of the utterly biased Fox News, &quot;moderated&quot; sounds too much like censored.<br /> <br /> In addition, the third of Professor Fishkin&#39;s criteria for success was to influence decision-makers. With such an aim, the public at large - sceptical as they are - will understandably start to wonder what the agenda is.<br /> <br /> The fact that the agenda is nothing more than to give the people the voice they have been lacking will, sadly, not be believed - and there is little that can be done to rectify this, as it is a problem that lies at the heart of representative democracy. For people to feel that their voice counts they have to see that it counts. They want to see their opinions reflected in official policy. They want their party, their candidate to win. They couldn&#39;t care less about some other group of people they&#39;ve never met who are supposedly representative - they want to be listened to as individuals.<br /> <br /> But this is not a problem unique to exercises like Tomorrow&#39;s Europe. As the problems with the British first past the post system amply demonstrate, politics isn&#39;t a simple case of black and white. You may agree with Labour on immigration, the Tories on the NHS, the Lib Dems on the war on terror - but you have only one vote, and can&#39;t specify what it signifies beyond putting an &quot;X&quot; in a box. Your individual voice, your individual opinions, will never be heard amongst the mass of alternatives, and will be lost amidst the compromises that all politicians and parties must make to secure as much support as possible.<br /> <br /> In this, the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll has a sizable advantage. By breaking down the different policy areas into a number of different, specific questions, and with participants asked how much they agree or disagree on a sliding scale, the multiple shades of grey are allowed to become far clearer. As an aid to attune policy-makers to the desires of the public, such a system could well prove invaluable.<br /> <br /> But this is a service that focus groups already provide. The only difference is, if anything, a negative one. For the difference is that those involved in a deliberative poll are given information and encouraged to discuss amongst themselves to reach a more informed, deliberative opinion. As the public at large do not do this, no matter how representative the participants in such a poll may have been when they went in, they are no longer representative when they come out - and so for policy-makers to listen to their views makes little sense.<br /> <br /> Because for policy-makers, democracy necessitates keeping the public on board and maintaining their support - as without that support, the power to make policy will be lost. To keep that support, policy-makers have to work with the public they have - not the ideal public that deliberative polls seek to create.<br /> <br /> So the difficulty is not proving that the participants are representative, or that the materials are balanced, or that genuine deliberation took place - the problem is in getting the public to accept that they would think differently about politics if they knew more about the subjects at hand. And how do you do that without insulting the public&#39;s intelligence?<br /> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Fri, 02 Nov 2007 20:57:55 +0000 J Clive Matthews 35011 at https://www.opendemocracy.net European opinion https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/european_opinion <p> For the last couple of days, winning over those sceptical of such democratic innovations as deliberative polling (assuming such innovations are valid, of course) has been my chief concern. But, with EU-centred innovations, we also still have the Eurosceptics. </p> <p> I&#39;ve already mentioned <a href="/blog/dliberation/difficulties_of_selling_to_the_people">the dominance of eurosceptics</a> in the online English language debate, largely due to the influence (and traffic-boosting transatlantic links to the closely-knit network of right-wing American blogs) of <a href="http://eureferendum.blogspot.com">EU Referendum</a>, independently run by two associates of the highly eurosceptic <a href="http://www.brugesgroup.com/about/index.live">Bruges Group</a> thinktank, one of whom also used to work for the UK Independence Party, before turning his back on them for being too amateurish (or so I believe). </p> <p> However, due to the fleeting and superficial coverage of Tomorrow&#39;s Europe in the mainstream media - some TV coverage, the occasional short article, but nothing overly in-depth - it will be to the web that most people will look in the weeks and months to come. Amongst the online coverage now will be found <a href="http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2007/10/controlling-debate.html">EU Referendum&#39;s assertion</a> that <em>&quot;what is delivered is a number of findings that are both pointless and irrelevant, except that they will be treated with undue reverence by the EU commission and its lackeys, who will cite them as evidence of what the &#39;citizens of Europe&#39; think and want.&quot;</em> </p> <p> So, on this front at least, it would seem that Professor Fishkin&#39;s <a href="/blog/dliberation/criteria_for_success">third criterion</a> for success - will decision-makers listen to the results? - has been accepted as a given by the eurosceptic crowd. But EU Referendum&#39;s reasoning does bear consideration - for it gets once again to the heart of getting the people to accept deliberative polling as a legitimate tool of democratic governance: </p> <p> <em>&quot;All of this is depressingly familiar, and more so when it represents yet another attempt by the Europhiliacs to by-pass the traditional standard of representative democracy - the popular vote in national elections - and to create a European polity by other means&quot;</em> </p> <p> Creating a European polity by other means was precisely what the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe excercise was all about - creating a microcosm of the EU with a functioning public sphere. But, of course, such an exercise will always remain artificial. </p> <p> Until the pan-European language barriers are broken down and a truly pan-European independent media emerges - two developments which hardly look likely at the moment - there can surely be no truly <em>European</em> polity, not one that functions at a truly EU-wide level. Because as long as the European elections remain fought primarily by national parties, and as long as the people remain largely in ignorance of how and what the EU does, all EU politics are national politics. </p> <p> There is no such thing as <em>European</em> opinion, yet it was European opinion that the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll was trying to measure. </p> <p> It all smacks of trying to run before you can walk. But let us not forget that Tomorrow&#39;s Europe was merely one part of the broader Plan D initiative to get the people of Europe talking and discussing amongst themselves. Plan D is set to continue - its initial two year experiment continued by another two. And the next stage&#39;s emphasis is on the web - on which, more later. </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation Public debate The Poll Thu, 01 Nov 2007 11:01:07 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34998 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Better the devil you know? https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/better_the_devil_you_know <p> <a href="/blog/dliberation/scientific_representation_and_democracy"> Here</a> we come to the fundamental problem with the EU&#39;s drive for democracy - getting true representativeness is seemingly impossible in a body as vast and diverse as the European Union. Even ensuring fair representation for the member states is well nigh impossible - let alone ensuring that smaller than national-level groups are also represented. There will always be complaints: where are the German Turks? Where are the French Basques? Where are the Russian Estonians? Where are the Afro-Carribbean British? </p> <p> As noted by Paul Davies in <a href="/blog/dliberation/democracy_for_the_sake_of_it5">the conclusion to his series on the European Parliament</a>: <em>&quot;System-wise, there is no answer. However the MEPs are elected... the Union will still face a similar problem to the American Senate, where all 50 states have two senators despite the ratio of the largest state to the smallest state in terms of population being a whopping 70:1.&quot;</em> </p> <p> Because, let&#39;s face it, the only way to find out what the people want is to ask them. All of them. And the only way to avoid confusion is to ask them on every issue, on every policy. Direct democracy - the plebiscite/referendum - is the only solution to ensure that everyone feels that they have had their say on the issues that are dear to them. </p> <p> But, of course, referenda also have their problems. The question can be disputed, as with the 1975 referendum on the UK remaining part of the EEC. The significance of the result can be disputed, as with those of the French and Dutch referenda on the EU constitution in 2005. </p> <p> Plus, of course, referenda can&#39;t be used all the time. During Tony Blair&#39;s time as Prime Minister we famously saw <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/06/04/nlaws04.xml">seven new laws every day</a>. Holding seven referenda a day would not only be hugely impractical, but insanely expensive. </p> <p> But with seven new laws a day, 2,555 per year, for every law to be contained in a manifesto for a five year term (manifestos being the documents parties most often use to justify their policy agendas), such a document would need to contain policy positions of upwards of 12,700 laws and run to hundreds of thousands of pages. That&#39;s almost as impractical as holding seven referenda per day - but how else can the people give their consent to what their governments are doing without anyone complaining that they haven&#39;t been consulted? </p> <p> The answer, of course, is simple. Representative democracy is all about delegation to get around the sheer impracticalities of governing according to the will of the people. But the people have to assent to the type of delegation, the type of representation being used. You have to get the people on board - and to do that, <a href="/blog/dliberation/getting_the_people_on_board">they have to be able to understand the system</a>. </p> <p> Any innovative method for public consultation, therefore - be they deliberative polls or citizens&#39; juries - needs to spend at least as much time explaining the system as clearly as possible as it does on getting results. Yet Gordon Brown&#39;s citizens juries remain <a href="http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,2180216,00.html">a methodological mystery</a>, just as - arguably - <a href="/blog/dliberation/scientific_representation_and_democracy">does the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll</a>. </p> <p> Clarity is key - but are deliberative polls simply too complex to sell to the people? How to explain the selection process when statistical representativeness is so hard to achieve, depending on what criteria one looks for? How to convince people that the materials provided are impartial? That the moderators are fair? That the organisers haven&#39;t helped push participants towards the answers they want? </p> <p> <a href="/blog/dliberation/representativeness_response">Professor Fishkin took issue</a> with me picking the issue of attitudes towards the EU amongst the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe participants as a point of reference - but this is the first that eurosceptics will check. And with any new democratic system, unless you can win over the sceptics you are destined to fail - why else have we been waiting the best part of a century for the reform of the House of Lords? Why else is there still such resistance to proportional representation, even though the current British first past the post system is so patently inadequate? </p> <p> With political systems, it seems, it remains a case of better the devil you know - because for new methods to be introduced usually takes nothing short of a revolution. </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation Public debate The Poll Wed, 31 Oct 2007 16:24:54 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34991 at https://www.opendemocracy.net On scientific representation and democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/on_scientific_representation_and_democracy <p> The claim for the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll was always that it was going to be a &quot;scientific sample&quot; of the whole of the EU. Yet - <a href="/blog/dliberation/democracy_for_the_sake_of_it5">as with the European Parliament</a> - the forced inclusion of member states with smaller populations in such a sample instantly makes it look odd. Based on population size, a truly scientific random sample of 3,500 people from the whole of the EU should expect (on average) to contain just 2.5 Maltese - yet the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe sample, thanks to the member state weighting, contained 80. </p> <p> From a PR point of view, this is understandable - ensure every member state is represented, the chance for media coverage is greatly increased. But, at the same time, it makes selling the poll as &quot;scientific&quot; rather harder. </p> <p> A genuinely random poll of 3,500 people from the whole of the EU? Fine. One weighted to ensure the inclusion of someone from every member state? This sounds less random, more likely to contain some selection bias, and therefore less convincing. </p> <p> 400 people randomly selected from a larger group of 3,500? Fine. 3 people randomly selected from a group of 80 to represent Malta, plus 10 randomly selected from a group of 90 to represent Belgium, 15 from 105 for the Netherlands, 50 from 330 for Germany, etc. etc.? You&#39;ll have a tough time convincing anyone that the smaller samples - and therefore the final participants in the poll - have any chance of being representative. There may well be well-considered scientific methodology to support such an approach, but it&#39;s going to be far too complex for the majority of people to understand, and they will therefore most likely reject it. </p> <p> Because in the end it&#39;s all about presentation. The case made <a href="/blog/dliberation/more_on_representativeness">by Professor Luskin</a> for random polling as the most scientifically valid<a href="/blog/dliberation/more_on_representativeness"></a> is compelling. It&#39;s participation by lottery - everyone has the same chance of being called to take part. That the man on the street can understand. But as Tomorrow&#39;s Europe&#39;s sample wasn&#39;t truly random across the whole of the EU, selling it as a lottery - and therefore scientific - is not going to convince. </p> <p> Of course, lack of strict, scientific/statistical representativeness doesn&#39;t mean that the excercise was a waste of time, nor that the results of the poll should be ignored. Is the United Kingdom parliament statistically representative? Of course not. Is the US House of Representatives? Nope. Is any democratic chamber in the world? Not a chance. </p> <p> But if this is the case, will any democratic system bar one run - as in Switzerland - with the repeated use of referenda of the whole population ever be able to convince the people that their concerns are truly being represented? Why do we accept democratic systems in which the people are consulted only once every few years, and yet find fault with so many alternative proposals - be they deliberative polls or citizen consultations - which are surely no more unrepresentative of the population as a whole? </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation Public debate The Poll Wed, 31 Oct 2007 13:14:31 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34987 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Getting the people on board https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/getting_the_people_on_board <p> My concerns about the statistical representativeness of the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll remain, despite<a href="/blog/dliberation/representativeness_response"> Professor Fishkin&#39;s response</a> - though I accept that my complete lack of knowledge of statistical theory may well be the reason why the sample, to me, doesn&#39;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). </p> <p> Fishkin laid out <a href="/blog/dliberation/criteria_for_success">three criteria for success</a>: 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 <a href="/blog/dliberation/difficulties_of_selling_to_the_people">those I highlighted</a> from Margot Wallstrom&#39;s blog.<br /> </p> <p> So, be it statistically representative or not, the key problem remains - with my apparent confusion merely highlighting the issue. Tomorrow&#39;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&#39;t quite understand how it all works or whether it should be listened to, what chance have the public as a whole? </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Wed, 31 Oct 2007 11:30:01 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34985 at https://www.opendemocracy.net No one cares about the EU https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/no_one_cares_about_the_eu <p> With polls showing around 75% supporting a referendum on the EU reform treaty, the Conservative party repeatedly using the referendum as a fresh stick with which to beat Gordon Brown, and newspapers like the Sun and the Telegraph campaigning for the people to be allowed to have their say, in recent weeks British eurosceptics have been getting really rather excited. It has long been assumed that the UK tends towards euroscepticism, and the growing support for a referendum seemed to confirm that anti-EU types are in the majority. </p> <p> So with the battle not yet won and referendum calls still reverberating around the country to apparent popular accalim, it&#39;s entirely understandable that the organiser&#39;s of Saturday&#39;s <a href="http://www.proreferendumrally.co.uk/">Referendum Rally</a> in Westminster were expecting attendance in the region of several thousand. After all, if <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/513564.stm">pro-foxhunting rallies in Cardiff</a> could draw 6-10,000 a few years back, when a majority of the population were <em>against </em>foxhunting, surely something where the majority are in favour taking place in more easily-accessible London would do even better? </p> <p> Nope. The final turnout has been estimated at somewhere in the region of just 3-500. Yep - that&#39;s three to five <em>hundred</em>. I&#39;m not missing a zero, and that hyphen is not meant to be a comma. </p> <p> With <a href="http://news.google.co.uk/news?hl=en&amp;client=firefox-a&amp;rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&amp;hs=1b8&amp;resnum=0&amp;oe=UTF-8&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;tab=wn&amp;ncl=1122738833">a distinct lack of press coverage</a> (as notes <a href="http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/politics/danielhannan/october/europeblame.htm">Conservative eurosceptic MEP Daniel Hannan</a>), it is to the blogs that we must turn for reactions. Unsurprisingly, among the eurosceptic bloggers who attended the feeling is <a href="http://prodicus.blogspot.com/2007/10/while-england-slept.html">a combination of frustration and embarrassment</a> (with more <a href="http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2007/10/against-all-odds.html">here</a>, <a href="http://www.chrispalmer.org/2007/10/27/we-serve-hell-and-suffer-well/">here</a> and <a href="http://devilskitchen.me.uk/2007/10/in-name-of-god-that-i-dont-believe-in.html">here</a>) - in particular at the realisation that attendees of eurosceptic demonstrations seem to conform to all the stereotypes, from middle-aged women dressed as Britannia through to ranting maniacs unable to distinguish between current Conservative MPs and Edward &quot;the traitor&quot; Heath - and even the occasional member of the BNP doing Nazi salutes. </p> <p> As <a href="http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/1058">UK Polling Report noted a few days ago</a>, though three-quarters of the population may say they want a referendum, only 4% name the EU as one of the most important issues facing the country (while immigration gets 43%, crime 41%, health 33% and defence/terrorism 22%). It all tends to back up my <a href="/blog/dliberation/more_lack_of_interest">recent assertions</a> that <a href="/blog/dliberation/a_distinct_lack_of_interest">no one is interested</a>.<br /> </p> <p> At this stage it would be all too easy for anyone pro-EU to point and laugh, as the demonstration designed to show the mass support for a referendum has done little more than show that turnout for such a plebiscite would likely be very low indeed, and that those who are strongly in favour of one have a tendency to be slightly unstable. </p> <p> But the lack of interest and attendance is demonstrative of a rather deeper problem that affects those in favour of the EU just as much as those who oppose it. If people aren&#39;t intersted in the EU, and don&#39;t consider it an important issue, just what are the chances of it ever building up a healthy degree of democracy? If even those deeply convinced that the EU is fundamentally damaging and threatening this country fail to show up to rallies in favour of a referendum, what are the chances of getting people who don&#39;t really care that much to go to the polling booth? </p> <p> It may also be worth noting at this point that while it&#39;s perfectly simple (and arguably valid) to play down the significance of the EU reform treaty as being not that important, really - as some opponents of a UK referendum (myself included) have done - it is far less easy to play down the significance of the EU to British politics. Yes, the relationship with America has dominated coverage of British international relations during the past six years. But it is the UK&#39;s relationship with the EU which is by far the more important, and events in Brussels far more significant for the average man on the street than those in Baghdad. </p> <p> And yet still the EU receives very little press coverage, the people of Britain still care hardly at all. A protest against a war perceived as illegal (that will directly impact upon the lives of very few in the UK) drew a million people - a protest against a treaty perceived as transferring yet more power to the EU (that will directly impact upon the lives of everyone in the UK) draws barely a few hundred. </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation Public debate Mon, 29 Oct 2007 13:07:36 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34966 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The full results - a representativeness comparison https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/the_full_results_a_representativeness_comparison <p> Two weeks after the deliberative poll, and around a month after the initial poll, we now appear to have <a href="http://www.tomorrowseurope.eu/spip.php?article169">all the results we need</a> to assess the representativeness of the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll, with the release of the results of the initialal poll of 3,500 (<a href="http://www.tomorrowseurope.eu/IMG/pdf/TsE_All_Opinions_at_T1_Whole_Sample-1.pdf">PDF</a>). This was the group from which the sample of 362 was taken - and so their representativeness should be compared to this initial poll. I&#39;ve already <a href="/blog/dliberation/how_can_the_tomorrows_europe_poll_claim_to_be_representative">noted</a> my <a href="/blog/dliberation/more_on_representativeness">suspicions</a> about the <a href="/blog/dliberation/representativeness_demographics">demographic</a> representativeness - but, of course, what&#39;s needed as much as anything in an exercise like this is representativeness of <em>opinion</em>. </p> <p> So as one of my suspicions was that <a href="/blog/dliberation/yet_more_on_representativeness">pro-EU types would be more likely to take part</a>, let&#39;s take that as a first point of comparison - especially as this is surely the most easy to measure political opinion when it comes to any aspect of EU politics. As a bonus, support for the EU is one of the things tested in the regular Eurobarometer opinion polls (most recent <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb67/eb_67_first_en.pdf">PDF</a>), and so this makes for an easy point of comparison to a larger sample. </p> <p> So, those who thought their country&#39;s membership of the EU is a bad thing? </p> <p> Eurobarometer - <strong>15%</strong> ; 3,500 sample - <strong>12.3%</strong> ; 362 participants - <strong>9.4%</strong> ; 362 (post-deliberation) - <strong>2.8%</strong> </p> <p> And those thinking it is a good thing? </p> <p> Eurobarometer - <strong>57%</strong> ; 3,500 sample - <strong>69.4%</strong> ; 362 participants - <strong>79%</strong> ; 362 (post-deliberation) - <strong>89.9%</strong> </p> <p> This already looks a tad concerning. Eurobarometer (a survey of 27,000 people - 1,000 in every EU member state) would seem to show that people with a negative opinion of the EU are under-represented by 5% among the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll&#39;s participants, while those favourable to the EU are over-represented by 22%. </p> <p> But wait - the figures are not directly comparable. Because the results we have for the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe polls doesn&#39;t distinguish between &quot;slight&quot; and &quot;very&quot; favourable or disfavourable - unlike the Eurobarometer poll. </p> <p> That 15% who think the EU has been bad for their country in the Eurobarometer survey is actually 15% who think EU membership has been <em>very</em> bad for their country, while in the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll, the 12.3 and 9.4% takes into account the full range of negative opinions, right up to (but not including) &quot;have no opinion one way or the other&quot;. And, just to give an indication of how large a proportion the &quot;no opinion&quot;contingent may be, in the last ten years of Eurobarometer surveys, the percentage polled thinking EU membership is neither good nor bad has stood somewhere around the 25-30% mark. </p> <p> So, those results may be out by as much as a third. How can we tell? We need the raw data - because the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe participants were asked to rate their support/opposition to the EU on a sliding scale, so these figures do exist. But why haven&#39;t they been released? </p> <p> It also, it must be said, seems a bit odd that support for the EU rose so much amongst the participants - and rather unfortunate, as that&#39;s hardly likely to quell the suspicions of the eurosceptics that this was <a href="/blog/dliberation/difficulties_of_selling_to_the_people">an exercise in brain-washing</a>... </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Mon, 29 Oct 2007 09:24:54 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34964 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The difficulties of selling to the people https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/the_difficulties_of_selling_to_the_people <p> Vice-President of the European Commission Margot Wallstrom, instigator of the Plan D programme under which Tomorrow&#39;s Europe was launched, has had a gander at the results of the poll and <a href="http://blogs.ec.europa.eu/wallstrom/tomorrows-europe/">put up some thoughts on her blog</a>. She picks out a few interesting results, but what is more interesting is perhaps not the areas that were intended. </p> <p> First, there&#39;s the mention of other past &quot;Plan D&quot; projects (some of which I&#39;d never even heard of, and I generally try to keep up with these things), and the plan to get a sample of 250 participants from all of them to go to Brussels in December and discuss how these events were run and affected them. </p> <p> Second, however, is the comments the blog post has so far received. </p> <p> Commissioner Wallstrom&#39;s blog, you see, was the first such communication tool to be launched by anyone from the Commission. It was the first place where members of the public felt they could lobby a Commissioner direct. Due to the <a href="/blog/dliberation/a_distinct_lack_of_interest">lack of interest</a> from the majority of the European public in EU affairs, however, what emerged in the comments section instead? </p> <p> Yes, that&#39;s right - the eurosceptics. Only these are a special breed - a super-strain of withdrawalist EU-cynics who will never believe anything said by anyone they think has any kind of connection with an official EU body unless they are a UKIP MEP (see <a href="http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2007/10/2014-you-cant-stand-as-conservative.html">a prime example of just such an exercise</a> over at Iain Dale&#39;s place last week). </p> <p> Online, British eurosceptics dominate any English-language debate about the EU - largely due to the dominance of one blog - <a href="http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/">EU Referendum</a>. From this hub, the loyal readers and participants in the blog&#39;s healthy forums - in terms of numbers, precisely the sort of participation in EU debate that Wallstrom wants to foster - then intermittently venture out into the wider internet, all with one aim in mind. </p> <p> That aim? Seemingly to write the most cliched, predictable and barking comments they can on any site or story they perceive as being pro-EU. As such, Commissioner Wallstrom&#39;s blog is their Eldorado. Witness a few of the gems on this Tomorrow&#39;s Europe post: </p> <p> <em>&quot;I have a poll for you Margot... Do you wish to live in a state that&#39;s being Islamified.&quot;</em> </p> <p> <em>&quot;The question is - do we give up our countries or do we fight?&quot;</em> </p> <p> <em>&quot;I and others are not asked if we accept the polls and propaganda&quot;</em> </p> <p> Every now and again amongst the frothing-at-the-mouth rhetoric (which none of them seems to see does their cause far more harm than good), comes the sort of response which perfectly underlines the difficulty of getting any kind of representative democracy accepted by the people at large: </p> <p> <em>&quot;This &#39;deliberative poll&#39; sounds a wee bit too much like &#39;normal polls are against us, so we have to brainwash the participants before we poll them&#39;. </em> </p> <p> <em>&quot;The process of &#39;deliberative polling&#39; includes two critical sections: The Recruitment phase and the Briefing phase. In the first you can easily weed out the informed people, and in the second, you can feed the rest any bull as &#39;impartial briefing&#39;. </em> </p> <p> <em>&quot;Hey, it is amazing that anyone related to Brussels can even SPELL &#39;impartial briefing&#39;. The briefing was propably as &#39;impartial&#39; as the new treaty is &#39;democratic&#39;…&quot;</em> </p> <p> The trouble is, of course, that no one has any real idea of just how large this minority of eurocynics actually is. It seems unlikely that they will ever be won over to the delights of the EU - but at the moment they well and truly dominate the online debate. Launching any fresh attempts to boost citizen participation online is, sadly, most likely doomed to be dominated by precisely the same kinds of voices. </p> <p> Because the only people who are really interested in the EU appear to be those who want to see it destroyed. </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Fri, 26 Oct 2007 10:41:55 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34943 at https://www.opendemocracy.net More lack of interest https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/more_lack_of_interest <p> So, you&#39;re a multinational political party made up of 33 national parties from every member state of the EU. To gear up for the 2009 European Parliamentary elections, which will for the first time be fought by (some) parties EU-wide, rather than merely nationally, you reckon &quot;why not get the people involved and ask them what we should campaign about?&quot; </p> <p> And so the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party_of_European_Socialists">Party of European Socialists</a> launches <a href="http://www.manifesto2009.pes.org/">a major new online consultation</a>, designed to get up a proper debate about their policies and the future of the EU, following the reform treaty&#39;s expansion of the European Parliament&#39;s powers. &quot;Hurrah! That&#39;s just the sort of initiative we need to give the public ways to get involved in EU decision-making!&quot;, we all cry. </p> <p> Only trouble? Two days in, the five introductory posts have received a grand total of 73 views. <a href="/blog/dliberation/a_distinct_lack_of_interest">People simply aren&#39;t interested in the EU</a>. </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation Public debate Thu, 25 Oct 2007 14:02:42 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34929 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A distinct lack of interest https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/a_distinct_lack_of_interest <p> Tomorrow&#39;s Europe was part of the European Commission&#39;s &quot;Plan D&quot; (&quot;<a href="http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/05/1272">for democracy, dialogue and debate</a>&quot;), launched in October 2005 with the aim of getting the people of Europe discussing the EU. </p> <p> So, two years on, if you did a Google search for &quot;EU debate&quot; you&#39;d expect this to come pretty high up, wouldn&#39;t you? People hunting for somewhere to discuss the EU would be likely, after all, to enter those terms to look for a forum for discussion. </p> <p> But <a href="http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&amp;safe=off&amp;client=firefox-a&amp;rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-GB%3Aofficial&amp;hs=Mvz&amp;q=eu+debate&amp;btnG=Search&amp;meta=">what actually comes top when you search for &quot;EU debate&quot;</a> - with or without inverted commas? Erm... A three-year-old post by me at <a href="http://www.jcm.org.uk/blog/">my personal blog</a>&#39;s old home... </p> <p> The thing is, the fact that a three-year-old blog post trumps the BBC, the EU&#39;s own official site, the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Seattle Post Intelligencer, the Foreign Office, the Scotsman, as well as leading EU politics sites EurActive, EUPolitix and EU Observer, does more than just give me a quick ego boost. </p> <p> If there were a market for debating the EU, surely a mere individual blogger writing with a silly pseudonym would not be able to dominate? </p> <p> If the European Parliament&#39;s own website can only make it on to page two of a Google search for EU debate, and if nowhere in the first two pages actually offers a place to discuss the issues bar my own humble, utterly amateur effort, how interested can people actually be in discussing the EU? </p> <p> (This lack of interest, incidentally, can be confirmed by pretty much every blogger who specialises in writing about the EU. It is not, shall we say, a subject that generates much traffic.) </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation Public debate Thu, 25 Oct 2007 11:03:59 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34924 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The impossibility of EU debate https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/the_impossibility_of_eu_debate <p> <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2294/1741426830_7afa4375c3_o.jpg" alt="Shouldn&#039;t be this heated" title="Shouldn&#039;t be this heated" width="600" height="200" /></p> <p> As the Tomorrow's Europe deliberation was designed to encourage debate as much as anything, it was intriguing to see this <a href="http://fistfulofeuros.net/afoe/political-issues/is-high-euroscepticism-running-down">analysis of the current state of the EU debate in the UK</a> over at A Fistful of Euros: </p> <p> <em>"More than ever before, the entire tone of the debate about Europe in the UK seems deranged. But this time out, it also seems to be increasingly recognised that this is so.<br /><br /> "In a sense, the whole row has become conventionalised to a degree where it is a mere set of gestures. I recall the debates about the Euro in the late 90s and early 00s, and on the various treaties of the same period, to say nothing of the Maastricht ratification, the daddy of them all. This has had none of the same fire, despite the Sun reaching new heights of linguistic escalation and new depths of journalistic debasement."</em> </p> <p> Let's face it, if debates revolve almost entirely around unsupported assertions and overblown rhetoric, they tend to do little more than further polarise opinion. Even the terminology of the EU debate - where everyone seems to be forced into either the "eurosceptic" or "europhile" camp, with no room for the myriad shades of gray, and "eurosceptic" these days tending to mean withdrawalist rather than merely someone who can see the flaws of the EU - seems designed to preclude genuine discussion.<br /></p> <p> At some point, for coherent positions to be formed, it is necessary to resort to fact. But one of the many troubles with the EU is that facts are often very hard to come by. The Reform Treaty is a prime example of this, <a href="http://www.barder.com/ephems/718">as former Ambassador Brian Barder points out</a>: </p> <p> <em>"whatever the rights and wrongs of an undertaking given by a previous administration, a referendum now would be unacceptably dangerous for Britain, not because the government can't trust the British people to make a sensible decision but because the outcome would be vulnerable to the lies and misrepresentations of the fanatically Europhobic and unscrupulous tabloids, and similarly unprincipled elements of the Conservative party, whose real objections are not to the small print of the treaty but to British membership of the European Union. The prospects of a referendum result that reflected a mature weighing up of the overall pros and cons of ratification, after exhaustive analysis and discussion of the issues and the likely consequences of non-ratification, would be almost nil"</em> </p> <p> Add to that the sheer complexity of the document, even if the debate were to be conducted in mature terms, who could really hope to understand it. A typical passage from the new treaty quoted by Barder epitomises everything that makes sensible discussion of the EU so damn hard: </p> <p> <em>"Articles 29 to 39 of Title VI of the EU Treaty, which relate to judicial cooperation in criminal matters and to police cooperation, shall be replaced by Articles 61 to 68 and 69e to 69l of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; they shall be amended as set out in Article 2, points 64, 67 and 68, of this Treaty. The heading of the Title shall be deleted and its number shall become the number of the Title on final provisions."</em> </p> <p> With things this opaque, what hope is there? </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation Public debate Thu, 25 Oct 2007 07:45:32 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34923 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Too big for democracy? https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/too_big_for_democracy <p> In the latest part of his ongoing series about <a href="/blog/dliberation/democracy_for_the_sake_of_it4">the role of democracy in the EU</a>, Paul Davies gave the following quote from Aristotle: </p> <p> <em>&quot;a great state is not the same thing as a state with a large population. But certainly experience also shows that it is difficult and perhaps impossible for a state with too large a population to have good legal government.&quot;</em> - Aristotle, Politics, 1326a </p> <p> It&#39;s an assertion that bears much consideration - especially when combined with the language difficulties of the EU. </p> <p> One of the oft-repeated aims of the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll was to create a microcosm of the EU - but not the EU as it actually is. Instead, this was creating an EU with language barriers broken down to enable greater communication and facilitate understanding. It was, in other words, creating an EU where political discourse and debate could be truly pan-European. </p> <p> The end result (<a href="http://www.tomorrowseurope.eu/IMG/pdf/TsE_Significant_Opinion_Changes_FINAL.pdf">PDF</a>) was a slight shift in opinions, with the extremes weakening in most cases as opinions mellowed towards the centre ground. It is the result you would expect - because there wouldn&#39;t be such a broad range of political opinions if there wasn&#39;t some merit to most of them, and any sensible discussion with people of opposing views should, let&#39;s face it, lead to slightly less vehemently held opinions as appreciation of alternative arguments rises. </p> <p> But, let&#39;s face it, even in democracies where everyone speaks the same language, there&#39;s precious little in the way of agreement - and frequently a lot of strongly-held party loyalties, even where the actual policy differences between the parties is only very slight. So why does political rhetoric get so heated? </p> <p> Well, one of the assumptions of the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll is simply that people don&#39;t discuss politics with people of opposing views that often. When reading newspapers or watching the news, we&#39;re largely only exposed to soundbytes and brief, strongly argued opinions on the best policies. In an attempt to get their points of view across before we all lose interest, politicians necessarily have to avoid the subtleties of the matter, and talk in broad, sweeping generalisations phrased to sound as distinct as possible from those of their opponents. </p> <p> In other words, does the nature of modern democracy - with franchises of tens of millions - itself preclude the possibility of rational debate? Is the EU&#39;s multilingual problem really a problem at all, or just a smoke-screen hiding the key problem? </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Wed, 24 Oct 2007 12:04:42 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34914 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Preconceptions https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/preconceptions <p> My initial thinking about the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll was that the aim was to see what would happen if a representative selection of EU citizens were given access to better knowledge. &quot;What&#39;s the point in that?&quot;, I thought, &quot;as soon as you make them more knowledgable than the average, they cease to be representative, and so the final findings of the poll will be useless. All you&#39;ll prove is that people who know what they&#39;re talking about will make different choices to people who don&#39;t - which is both obvious and hardly of any use to policy-makers.&quot; </p> <p> Then, on first looking at the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe briefing materials, my initial reaction was that they were packed full of differing opinions, but contained little in the way of actual facts. &quot;How,&quot; I thought, &quot;can you come to a considered opinion on any given issue without looking at the background information and trying to weigh up the facts? How are these people meant to increase their knowledge and make informed decisions when all they are being exposed to is subjective opinion rather than objective evidence?&quot; </p> <p> But I think I may well have been missing the point. </p> <p> The real aim of deliberation seems to be to expose the participants to alternative viewpoints, <a href="/blog/dliberation/on_knowledge_and_democracy">not to additional knowledge</a>. Because the vast majority of us, after all, adopt the viewpoints of those in our immediate circle, most frequently from our families. If you were born and raised in Sussex, you&#39;re likely to have been raised a Conservative, whereas if you were born and raised in Northumbria you&#39;re more likely to think of yourself as a Labour supporter - just as if you&#39;re born in a Christian country, you&#39;re more likely to end up a Christian, a Muslim country a Muslim, and so on. World views are largely a matter of geography. </p> <p> Likewise, if you have certain opinions, the tendency is to stick to people who agree with you - be this friends or be it through your choice of newspaper. In the UK, if you&#39;re vaguely left-wing, there&#39;s a good chance you&#39;ll read the Guardian, the Independent or the Mirror - if vaguely right-wing, it might be the Telegraph, Mail or Sun. In the process, your opinions are confirmed and repeated back to you. </p> <p> If the aim of democracy is to avoid warfare - the ballot box replacing the ramparts and all that - deliberation seems to be aiming to take things one step further. Rather than simply replacing arguments settled by force with arguments settled by votes, as standard democratic systems do, deliberation aims for some kind of reconciliation and understanding between the opposing sides. </p> <p> One way of doing this? Get people of differing opinions discussing what they think and why in a civilised, moderated setting - with none of the usual shouty ranting that happens when people of opposing political views &quot;debate&quot; in other settings, most notably on the internet and in the House of Commons - and then see if they change their mind. </p> <p> The added benefit, of course, is that the polling method used removes the artificially binary split so often seen in democratic elections, which seem all to frequently to boil down to a two party system and a single, uncompromising vote. </p> <p> Of course, quite what use this exercise might be to policy-makers still remains anyone&#39;s guess. Until, that is, we all calm down a little and pay more attention to the views we normally dismiss outright thanks to our own ingrained political preconceptions. So I&#39;m still not entirely sure what the point is... I think I may be getting somewhere, though... </p> <p> <strong>A entirely irrelevant sidetrack:</strong> </p> <p> How much nicer it would be to be able to break it down to the issues in actual elections, just as the participants in the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll were able to do. How much nicer to be able to give progressive scores to the various parties - agreeing with Labour 60% on education, the Tories 60% on taxation, the Lib Dems 60% on civil liberties, etc. etc. - and see who&#39;s got more approval for more policies at the end of the day. Why, if you vote Labour because you want increased investment in the NHS, should that also count as you giving your approval for the war in Iraq, after all? Why should any party of government be able to claim a democratic mandate for a policy that featured in just one brief line in their almost entirely unread manifesto? </p> <p> Maybe I should dub it the Clive-Matthews model? On election day, all voters have to fill out a 100 question multiple-choice questionnaire on the full range of policy issues, compiled to reflect the various parties/candidates&#39; positions, marking each statement on a scale of one to ten - each party/candidate then has their score worked out from the totals, the highest-scoring winning office. I mean, yes - it would take about an hour for each person to vote, the election would therefore have to take place over the course of several weeks, and it could well take a year or more for the results to come through, by which time everyone could have changed their minds - but it should nonetheless end up a far better reflection of public opinion than simple first past the post, where so many votes are cast based on blind party loyalty... </p> <p> What? I can dream, can&#39;t I? </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Tue, 23 Oct 2007 14:32:28 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34904 at https://www.opendemocracy.net On knowledge and democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/on_knowledge_and_democracy <p> <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2416/1706840205_a9cb245c08_o.jpg" alt="Wisdom and knowledge" title="Wisdom and knowledge" width="600" height="200" /></p> <p> One of the key arguments supporting any kind of deliberative democracy is that the process of deliberation leads to an increase in knowledge and understanding - with the natural assumption that the more they improve, the more considered the opinions. </p> <p> However, as already noted, one of the questions selected by one of the groups for the final Q&amp;A with the experts, after three days of deliberation, was "what is the role of the European Parliament within the EU institutions". With such a fundamental aspect of the way the EU runs still not understood by at least some of the participants on the final day, just how much was their knowledge actually increased? </p> <p> Well, this was one of the things the poll tested (<a href="http://cdd.stanford.edu/polls/eu/2007/eu-dpoll-knowledge.pdf">PDF</a>). </p> <p> Unsurprisingly, the total number of correct answers - across a range of nine multiple-choice questions - improved fairly significantly during the time of the poll. The total knowledge gain is measured at 16% between the first poll (of 3,500 people) and the last (of the 362 participants after the weekend's deliberation). </p> <p> However, there is still some cause for concern. First, the second poll - taken as the 362 participants arrived - already showed an average knowledge gain of 10.9% on the initial poll of 3,500. Does this indicate that the participants had already started to read more about the subjects they would be discussing - or does it indicate that they had a greater average level of knoweldge than the initial sample, and could therefore be considered unrepresentative? </p> <p> Certainly, in terms of educational level the participants in the deliberation were better-educated than the poll as a whole (<a href="http://www.tomorrowseurope.eu/IMG/pdf/participants_representativeness.pdf">PDF</a>), with 57.7% of the 362 having at least some university education compared to just 37.4% in the initial sample of 3,500. Perhaps greater levels of knowledge should be expected - but does this affect the claims for representativeness? </p> <p> Furthermore, on certain specific issues discussed in detail during the deliberation, the increase in knowledge was significantly below the average knowledge gain. For example, despite sessions specifically dedicated to employment within the EU, by the time of the final poll still only 19.2% of participants could pick the right answer when asked how the EU adopts employment laws (a knowledge gain of only 10.6%). Less than half the participants were able to pick the correct answer when asked what the EU's role is in employment benefits. This may have been a knowledge gain of 17.8% - but the fact that they had supposedly been discussing precisely this issue in detail yet still didn't know how the EU fits into the equation could be cause for concern. </p> <p> Or is it? Is an understanding of how a political system works really necessary to participate effectively within that system? I, after all, have only the most basic of understandings of how the computer I am typing this on actually works, yet still manage to get the job done. And there is any number of examples where experts have got things wrong. </p> <p> In other words, is factual knowledge actually necessary for democratic decision-making to be effective - or is <a href="/article/democracy_power/deliberation/democratic_process">the wisdom of crowds</a> sufficient in itself? </p> <p> And in any case, which is more important - an understanding of the facts, or an understanding and appreciation of opposing viewpoints? I may once have argued the former - but is the latter more important for a healthy democracy? More on this to follow... </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Tue, 23 Oct 2007 11:06:36 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34902 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The EU in microcosm https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/the_eu_in_microcosm_0 <p> Such was the claim of the organisers of the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll, and the more I think about it, the more right I think they were. </p> <p> Because, you see, the more I&#39;ve been pondering whether or not the 362 people who attended the deliberation can truly be representative of the 500 million people who make up the EU, the more I&#39;ve started to wonder just what the chances are of any &quot;representative&quot; body from such a large group looking anything like the group as a whole. </p> <p> Earlier this year, the Guardian had a fascinating report on <a href="http://politics.guardian.co.uk/farright/comment/0,,2012521,00.html">the lack of racial representation in the European Parliament</a> - of 785 MEPs, only nine are non-white where, based on estimates of the non-white European population, the figure should be nearer 40. In the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe group, I spotted only two non-white faces where, based on the same estimates, in a group of 362 there should have been nearer 18. </p> <p> Of course, the very concept of representative democracy relies on the idea that each and every minority demographic doesn&#39;t have to be <em>physically</em> represented in order to be <em>effectively</em> represented - resemblance is not the same as representation. </p> <p> But this still leads to a problem of deciding at what level the lack of representation of a specific group becomes a problem. In the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll, three Maltese took part in the deliberation as opposed to two non-white people. Yet the Maltese population of Europe is only 404,000 - the non-white population is nearer 25 million, and as much as 50 or 60 million by some estimates. Is it right that the Maltese should be represented so distinctly where non-whites are not - either in the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll or the European Parliament? </p> <p> And herein lies one of the fundamental problems of democratic representation in the EU. If we take the distinction between the individual member states to mean something, a fair democratic system - at least, as most people would understand it - is not possible. For how can the Maltese be effectively represented when, with a population of 404,000, they would not qualify for even half a German MEP? As noted earlier in this blog&#39;s coverage, there are 800,000 people per MEP in Germany, but just 80,000 people per MEP in Malta. Why should a Maltese vote be worth ten times a German one? </p> <p> The same problem naturally faced the organisers of the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll. With some countries having populations far larger than many others combined, how is it possible to ensure that every EU member state is represented without some having too few participants, some too many based on their population size? </p> <p> And - most importantly - if each member state has to be represented, no matter how small their population, is there any way the EU can ever be truly democratic? Or is it just that the European parliament - and the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe sample - is too small? Should the European Parliament contain 1,250 MEPs, just to ensure that Malta qualifies for one in terms of population (500 million divided by 400,000)? </p> <p> The people who criticise the EU for its lack of democracy are frequently the self-same people who moan about their national interests being overriden by the unelected Brussels bureaucrats. But if national differences continue to be considered important and worthy of protection, is there really any way of bringing greater democracy to the EU? </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Tue, 23 Oct 2007 08:30:39 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34901 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Points for comparison https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/points_for_comparison <p> While we wait for the results of the initial survey of 3,500 Europeans to be released, to enable comparison with the results of the surveys of the 362 participants in the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe deliberation itself, perhaps comparisons with other surveys may be of help. The most obvious, of course, is the regular <a href="http://www.gesis.org/en/data_service/eurobarometer/">Eurobarometer</a> surveys, polling the people of Europe on a country-by-country basis - and conducted by the same polling company, TNS Sofres, as conducted the initial survey for Tomorrow&#39;s Europe. </p> <p> However, while comparisons to past opinion polls of EU citizens can help us check the representativeness of the participants this time around, part of the argument for Tomorrow&#39;s Europe is that the deliberative process enables the participants to come to more informed decisions. As such, perhaps the real point of comparison should be between the participants and those who take the decisions within the EU? Here, our best option appears to be the Compagnia di San Paolo&#39;s <a href="http://www.compagnia.torino.it/english/index.html">European Elites Survey</a> - a poll of MEPs and senior workers at the European Commission and EU Council. </p> <p> Let&#39;s just take one point for comparison for now - Turkish entry to the EU. </p> <p> The last Eurobarometer survey (<a href="http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb63/eb63.4_en_first.pdf">PDF</a>) showed 32% support for Turkish EU entry amonst the old member states (though note this was taken a couple of years ago, and support has supposedly now risen to around the 40% mark, depending on who you believe). </p> <p> The European Elites Survey (<a href="http://www.compagnia.torino.it/english/comunicazioni/pdf/EES%20ing%2007.pdf">PDF</a>) showed 60% support for Turkish entry amongst workers at the European Commission. </p> <p> The Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll (<a href="http://www.tomorrowseurope.eu/IMG/pdf/TsE_Old_vs_New_Member_States.pdf">PDF</a>) showed 54% in favour in the initial poll of old member state participants in Tomorrow&#39;s Europe - dropping to 47% after deliberation. </p> <p> Significance? Well, it would seem that participants from the old member states were more than usually in favour of Turkish EU entry compared to the people of Europe as a whole. </p> <p> However, it&#39;s still too early to say for certain what this all means - because the pre-deliberation poll was taken on the Friday, as participants arrived. </p> <p> So, as the first poll of the 362 participants was taken when they had already agreed to take part, already knew roughly what the weekend would entail, had already received their briefing materials, and had likely already done a bit of reading up, did this already increase their favourability towards Turkey? Does the timing of this initial poll of the actual participants mean that the first results are not a true picture of real &quot;before&quot; attitudes? </p> <p> Until we get the results of the initial survey of 3,500, it will be impossible to say. In the meantime, any help comparing the results we do have to those from the Eurobarometer and European Elites surveys much appreciated... </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Mon, 22 Oct 2007 14:41:44 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34893 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fact versus opinion https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/fact_versus_opinion <p> <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2128/1687281385_81c468a813_o.jpg" alt="Discussion of facts or discussion of opinions?" title="Discussion of facts or discussion of opinions?" width="600" height="200" /></p> <p> Having been spotted by a friend in the background of Friday night's Newsnight coverage of the Tomorrow's Europe poll, I naturally enough scampered off to make sure that I wasn't to be spotted picking my nose just over the presenter's shoulder (as happened a few years ago when I got rather tipsy on free champagne at the Channel Four Political Awards...). To watch the report, <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/default.stm">go here</a>, click "watch latest programme", and scroll forward to the 22 minute mark - assuming you're doing it on Monday 22nd. </p> <p> Picking one's nose is, of course, a disgusting habit. If you spot someone picking their nose, you'll doubtless think rather less of them. But what if it's only that someone tells you that they've seen someone pick their nose - something the accused denies vehemently? When you haven't witnessed it yourself, and have no hard evidence to rely on, who do you believe? </p> <p> Newsnight asks, at the start of its report on Tomorrow's Europe, "will putting facts before prejudice change what they think?" But throughout the weekend, factual information on the EU was sparse, to say the least. </p> <p> This was not an exercise in weighing up evidence, but in comparing differing arguments. It was not that you saw someone picking their nose first hand, but that you've heard it from a third party, whose claim is immediately disputed. Because while the arguments presented to the participants in <a href="http://www.tomorrowseurope.eu/spip.php?article127">the briefing materials</a> were indeed fairly balanced, they were also hugely simplistic and contained very little in the way of factual information. </p> <p> Deliberative polling - and deliberative democracy more widely - has frequently been compared to a jury in a court case. The participants are presented with the evidence and competing arguments, and then discuss amongst themselves to reach a verdict. Yet with Tomorrow's Europe, though arguments were presented fairly and impartially, the evidence was sorely lacking. </p> <p> When discussing potential future expansion, for example, where were the statistics for the economic developement of the likes of Turkey and Ukraine? From <a href="http://www.tomorrowseurope.eu/spip.php?article169">the final results</a>, participants swung heavily against allowing Ukraine membeship in the future (39% heavily in favour of Ukraine's entry before, only 22% after), while opinions barely changed on Turkish entry, but why? My hunch is that the issues surrounding Turkey - indeed, Turkey itself, were better known than those surrounding Ukraine. But how can we tell? </p> <p> The sheer complexity of working out roughly how decisions may have been arrived at is daunting. The small group discussions are apparently going to be transcribed (that's 18 groups, four discussion sessions - around 140 hours of talking), but what could be handy before that is to have the results broken down into the groups the participants made up. If, for example, a majority of members of group 10 significantly changed their opinion on the Ukraine issue, there's an indication that something significant happened during their discussions that was missed among the other groups. What was this anomaly - presumably a particularly convincing contribution - and was it factually accurate or overly emotional? </p> <p> Plus, of course, the question also needs to be asked, does it matter if facts weren't available and some results may have been unduly skewed? Because, after all, the aim was to create a microcosm of Europe - and since when, in any political system, has the electorate been knowledgable about all the facts underlying the issues and remained unswayed by emotion in making their final choices? </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Mon, 22 Oct 2007 10:13:33 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34887 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Tomorrow's Europe and the language problem https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/tomorrows_europe_and_the_language_problem <p> Nice overview article from one of Britain&#39;s leading pro-EU writers, Timothy Garton Ash, on the events of last weekend <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2193268,00.html">over at the Guardian</a>. I can&#39;t say I spotted him amongst the attendees, but there were quite a few. </p> <p> Garton Ash seems to have come to similar conclusions about the poll as I am heading towards, however: &quot;More interesting than any result is the experiment itself.&quot; The reason? Simply because this was indeed the first time that people from all 27 member states were brought together in one room and allowed to chat amongst themselves in their own languages, all simultaneously interpreted. </p> <p> Garton Ash mentions the Tower of Babel - a comparison made more than once during the weekend&#39;s events. Indeed, the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll was like the biblical Babel story in reverse - many languages effectivley becoming one and enabling co-operation, rather than one language becoming many and preventing it. </p> <p> But, of course, there are always the practicalities to get in the way. There were a number of technical hitches throughout the weekend, interpretation fading in and out, and occasionally jumping to another language as the channels got crossed. Some of the interpreters were more skilled than others, leading to the occasional sensation that something significant had been missed. The sheer impossibility of having a proper discussion between people of 27 countries speaking in more than 20 languages when that would necessitate around 50 interpreters working at the same time ensured that the small groups were broken down to ensure participants were deliberating in no more than three different languages at once. </p> <p> And if the practicalities got in the way even for a group of just 362 people, just what are the chances of breaking down the language barriers amongst the 500 million people that make up the EU as a whole? </p> <p> &quot;This,&quot; Garton Ash notes, &quot;not any mind-numbing minutiae of a treaty, is the European challenge: to create fellow feeling while still speaking different languages.&quot; </p> <p> In this, did the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe succeed? From what I saw of it yes - yes it did. </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Fri, 19 Oct 2007 14:30:20 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34869 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The difficulties of analysis https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/the_difficulties_of_analysis <p><img title="The European Parliament, Brussels" src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2109/1630931843_4a457e0eb1_o.jpg" alt="The European Parliament, Brussels" width="450" /></p> <p>To make sense of the <a href="http://www.tomorrowseurope.eu/spip.php?article169">results of the Tomorrow's Europe poll</a>, we need:</p> <p>1) The results for the 3,500 sample</p> <p>2) The results for the 362 participants before deliberation</p> <p>3) The results for the 362 participants after deliberation</p> <p>However, so far the only results given out don't quite make clear what they actually are. This <a href="http://www.tomorrowseurope.eu/IMG/pdf/TsE_Significant_Opinion_Changes_FINAL.pdf">PDF</a> of opinion changes, for example, gives before and after figures, but doesn't make clear if the "before" is the entire sample of 3,500 or merely the 362 who took part in the deliberation.</p> <p>My guess is it is of the 362 (largely thanks to the very high proportion of people who look favourably on the EU, because my guess is that people willing to take part in a poll about the EU are more likely to be loosely pro) - but as it isn't made clear what is being compared, it's hard to tell. If it is only the 362, however, then where are the figures for the 3,500?</p> <p>There are so far two more sets of results - one showing that (surprise surprise!) access to information leads to increased knowledge (<a href="http://www.tomorrowseurope.eu/IMG/pdf/TsE_Knowledge_Gains_FINAL.pdf">PDF</a>), the other comparing the attitudes of old and new member states (<a href="http://www.tomorrowseurope.eu/IMG/pdf/TsE_New_vs._Old_Member_States_Significant_Opinion_Changes_FINAL-1.pdf">PDF</a>).</p> <p>Herein, as far as I can see, lies another problem. According to <a href="http://www.tomorrowseurope.eu/IMG/pdf/participants_representativeness.pdf">this PDF</a>, thanks to the relative population sizes (or, more accurately, thanks to the relative numbers of seats held in the European Parliament), the old member states (the fifteen members of the EU before 2004) had 257 participants, compared to the new member states' 105.</p> <p>Is a sample of 105 really large enough to count as representative of the alleged groupthink of 12 countries? Where, in any case, is the justification for lumping together countries as diverse as Cyprus and Poland, Malta and Estonia?</p> <p>And surely if the sample is merely 105 people, then to claim that a change in opinion of a few percentage points is significant when a 6% swing could merely indicate that just six people changed their minds, is somewhat misguided at best? Even a 10% change in opinion could, with these numbers, represent ten or eleven people in just one of the 18 small discussion groups.</p> <p>In other words, without access to the raw data, it is very hard to analyse the significance of these figures. Nonetheless, I'll continue to give it a pop - and help and advice is still very much appreciated.</p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Fri, 19 Oct 2007 09:34:13 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34866 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The results https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/the_results <a href="http://www.tomorrowseurope.eu/spip.php?article169">They&#39;re now available</a>. Analysis to follow - but any input much appreciated... J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Thu, 18 Oct 2007 20:53:32 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34863 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How can the Tomorrow's Europe poll claim to be representative? https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/dliberation/how_can_the_tomorrows_europe_poll_claim_to_be_representative <p> The argument for the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll&#39;s representativeness (the first of the <a href="/blog/dliberation/criteria_for_success">three criteria for success</a>) hinges on the claim that it was a &quot;<a href="http://tomorrowseurope.eu/spip.php?rubrique5">scientifically representative sample</a>&quot; of the population of the European Union. To ensure this scientific representativeness, <a href="/blog/dliberation/more_on_representativeness">random sampling was chosen</a>. (Random sampling&#39;s benefits lie in simple probability - given a large enough sample, a random selection should produce a representative cross-section of the thing being sampled.) </p> <p> As such, a random sample of 3,500 people from an EU population of nearly 500 million should end up being fairly representative of the whole<strong>*</strong>, and a random sample of 400 of those 3,500 should in turn produce a representative sample of that initial sample. Hence the repeated claims by the poll&#39;s organisers of creating &quot;<a href="http://www.tomorrowseurope.eu/spip.php?article128">the EU in microcosm</a>&quot;, and deliberative polling&#39;s mastermind, Professor James Fishkin, <a href="/blog/dliberation/what_and_why">arguing that</a> &quot;The microcosm chosen by lot embodies political equality because every citizen has an equal random chance to take part&quot;. It all sounds fine in theory. </p> <p> However, the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll did not take a random sample of 3,500 people from the whole of the EU. Instead, the desire to ensure that all member states were represented meant that what was actually conducted were 27 separate random samples of much smaller numbers, based on the proportion of seats each member state holds in the European Parliament (EP). </p> <p> So, of the 785 seats in the EP, Germany holds the largest number with 99 - 12.6% of the total - with Malta holding the fewest with just 5 - 0.6% of the total. </p> <p> 12.6% of 3,500 should lead to a random sample of 441 Germans - still a moderate amount, but hardly enough (following even the most basic <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sample_size">sample size rules</a>) to provide an overly accurate picture of a population of 82.5 million. 0.6% of 3,500, however, would lead to a random sample of just 21 Maltese, from a population of 404,000. </p> <p> In turn, 12.6% of 400 should lead to 50.4 Germans among the final group, with 0.6% of 400 leading to 2.4 Maltese. </p> <p> Yet in Tomorrow&#39;s Europe&#39;s initial sample, 80 Maltese were polled (2.8%), and only 380 Germans (10.9%). In other words, the proportionality was out - Maltese were over-represented, Germans under-represented. </p> <p> In the final group only 362 people, rather than 400, attended (figures for the nonattendance of the various nationalities have not been released, but have been estimated at 15%). This included 47 Germans (13%) and 3 Maltese (0.8%), seemingly by happy coincidence rather than design ending up somewhat closer to what the percentages should have been. </p> <p> But add to this the lack of samples of sufficient size from each of the 27 member states for the benefits of random sampling to kick in, how can the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll claim to be representative? </p> <p> <strong>* </strong><em>Note, in addition, that 3,500 from 500 million is a very small sample in itself - the regular <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurobarometer">Eurobarometer</a> EU-wide opinion polls instead survey 1000 people from each member state, a total sample of 27,000.</em> </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Thu, 18 Oct 2007 00:11:11 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34855 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Yet more on representativeness https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/yet_more_on_representativeness <p> <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2300/1600046679_6d41bd8571_o.jpg" alt="No, that isn&#039;t Sir Menzies Campbell looking at a piece of paper in the middle there... I think..." title="No, that isn&#039;t Sir Menzies Campbell looking at a piece of paper in the middle there... I think..." width="600" height="200" /></p> <p> I'm still pondering this whole representativeness issue (see posts <a href="/blog/dliberation/representativeness_demographics">here</a> and <a href="/blog/dliberation/more_on_representativeness">here</a>), and still in need of <a href="/blog/dliberation/number_crunching">help with the figures</a>. A few more things have occured to me, however - largely based on my own response to any requests to take part in opinion polls. </p> <p> On the occasions I've been asked, my tendency is only to take part in polls and surveys if I have respect for the organisation for which the poll is being conducted. This seems to be acknowledged as standard wisdom in some quarters. </p> <p> For example, at a publishing company at which I used to work, the opinions of readers about the content of the magazines (as revealed in the occasional reader surveys, or via letters sent in) were almost always ignored - because those who went to the effort to fill out the survey or to actually write in were so unrepresentative of the readership as a whole as not to be worth listening to. Instead, it was the information about their incomes and lifestyles to which attention was paid, to provide handy statistics to potential advertisers. </p> <p> When it comes to an institution as controversial as the European Union, can we really take as representative those who were willing to take part in an event which even the most idealistic pro-European must surely be aware is as much a PR exercise as an attempt at a genuine consultation? Does their willingness to participate not make them unrepresentative of itself?<br /></p> <p> A post on Tomorrow's Europe from <a href="http://members.optusnet.com.au/rlubensky/elearningmoments.html">Ron Lubensky</a>, a research assistant at the University of Sydney's Department of Government and International Relations who's looking into deliberative methods, heightened this feeling (selectively quoted with permission): </p> <p> <em>"The organiser delegated a polling company to randomly select 3500 citizens from across the EU for the initial survey. Let's assume that is a truly random and stratified sample that reflects the demography of each country.<br /><br /> "But how were the 400 attendees to the DP selected from those 3500? The media release states that they are selected scientifically. Of course, they weren't conscripted, so they would have had to self-nominate from the sample. Are they still a microcosm? No, they are not. They would be just the ones who were confident and affluent enough to go to Brussels for a long weekend. Most importantly, they would have been the ones who believed in the whole process.</em> </p> <p> <em>"...A large chunk of people believe that deliberative democracy is elitist and a leftist plot against their civil liberties. If they were invited to contribute to a Deliberative Poll, they'd laugh it off as a waste of time. They wouldn't participate, but then they'd tear it down because they don't believe that it's representative!!"</em> </p> <p> Let us take, to prove the point in an utterly unscientific way, a comparison of participants from three member states of equivalent sizes (all with 78 seats in the European Parliament). </p> <p> In the initial sample of 3,500, there were 300 French participants, 301 Italians and 302 British. In the final sample of 362? 41 French but only 28 Italians and 28 British. France famously had a very heated and detailed nationwide debate in the run-up to the 2005 referendum on the EU constitution, widely praised for being one of the best mass debates on the EU in the organisation's history. </p> <p> Considering that all participants were to be reimbursed for travel and expenses, as well as offered "thank you" payments for attending, does the heightened response rate from French invitees indicate a greater interest in EU matters in France as a whole - and if so does this make it less representative? </p> <p> Do the additional 13 French attendees (13 being more than the participants for Austria (11), Belgium (11), Bulgaria (9), Cyprus (3), the Czech Republic (12), Denmark (9), Estonia (3), Greece (11), Finland (8), Hungary (11), Ireland (6), Lithuania (4), Luxembourg (2), Latvia (7), Malta (3), Portugal (11), Sweden (9), Slovenia (4) and Slovakia (7)) mean that the poll was disproportionately swung in favour of French opinion? </p> <p> And, more generally, is this kind of random selection really capable of being representative when a) it's for a one-off poll, so the law of averages that normally applies to random selections does not apply, and b) it relies upon being able to persuade those who have been randomly selected to actually participate? </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Wed, 17 Oct 2007 15:18:07 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34851 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Did the deliberation deliver? https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/did_the_deliberation_deliver <p> <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2095/1589251414_4c33ac2436_o.jpg" alt="Deliberating?" title="Deliberating?" width="600" height="200" /></p> <p> Of Professor Fishkin's <a href="/blog/dliberation/criteria_for_success">three criteria for success</a> for the Tomorrow's Europe Deliberative Poll, the first - representativeness - we are still working on (and <a href="/blog/dliberation/number_crunching">help is still much appreciated</a>). The second is "Is it deliberative" - and on that front it's still a bit too early to say as the results won't be released until Thursday. </p> <p> However, there is enough information available to make an educated guess. By the Fishkin model, deliberation appears to be proven if the participants are shown to have changed their opinions during the course of the weekend's events. But is this enough to demonstrate that true deliberation has taken place? </p> <p> Deliberation should, in this context, mean the discussion of opposing views in the hope of coming to an informed and logical opinion. Yet were the participants in the Tomorrow's Europe poll given enough information on which to base their discussions, and were their discussions as fair and impartial as the organisers have claimed? </p> <p> The <a href="http://www.tomorrowseurope.eu/spip.php?article127">briefing materials provided to the participants</a> rightly noted that "it is difficult to be totally objective", but note that the matierials have been scrutinised by various politicians and experts from all political persuasions, ranging from the eurosceptic <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jens-Peter_Bonde">Jens-Peter Bonde</a> through to the pro-EU <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Duff">Andrew Duff</a>. </p> <p> Indeed, in terms of the (necessarily) vague overviews of the differing aruments, there does indeed seem to be a good degree of balance. For each area of policy - ranging from the welfare state through to the future enlargement of the EU - three points are given in favour, three against. </p> <p> But with the briefing materials stretching to just 25 pages of lightly-typed A4, is this really sufficient to reach an informed decision? Where are the statistics to back up the opposing views? Where are the facts? Where is the run-down on which EU countries currently take what line? Where, indeed, is the detail on what the EU's current policy is on the various areas? </p> <p> Take, for example, the pie chart below, reproduced in the briefing materials and purporting to show how the EU budget is spent. </p> <p> Please note that for no apparent reason the Common Agricultural Policy - the single largest and arguably most controversial area of EU expenditure (though not a topic for discussion at the Tomorrow's Europe event) - appears to be the second largest area on the chart. Yet the largest is actually made up of five separate and barely-related other areas - regional and cohesion policy, research, innovation, employment and energy - separate figures for which are not given. </p> <p> <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2227/1589180800_64313d6135_o.jpg" alt="From the briefing material" title="From the briefing material" width="600" height="702" /></p> <p> Is this kind of information really a sufficient basis for a true deliberative process? Especially considering that the input from the various participants in the small group deliberations - and even from the experts on the panels - were largely of the most general kind, and in any case were verbal, with no possibility of backing up statements with evidence. </p> <p> Can deliberation when not in possession of all the facts really count as deliberation? When a jury deliberates over a verdict in the legal sense in a court case, if evidence is withheld it can result in a mistrial. Is that the case here? Are we simply expecting too much? Or is this kind of exercise simply not capable of delivering enough? </p> <p> One further illustration of the point. In the final plenary session before the experts in the main chamber of the European Parliament, after the particpants had spent a whole weekend discussing the EU, one of the questions - agreed by an entire group as the one they'd most like answered, lest we forget - was <em>"What is the role of the European Parliament within the EU institutions?"</em> </p> <p> If they didn't know that most basic of things after three days of debate, how informed did they really become during the course of the event? </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Tue, 16 Oct 2007 16:22:32 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34838 at https://www.opendemocracy.net More on representativeness https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/more_on_representativeness <p> <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2302/1586679606_9683eecaba_o.jpg" alt="Professors Fishkin and Luskin in the European Parliament" title="Professors Fishkin and Luskin in the European Parliament" width="600" height="200" /></p> <p> <em>Below follows hastily-recorded partial transcripts / paraphrases (so don't take this as their exact words) of some of the comments made by Professors </em><strong>Fishkin </strong><em>and </em><strong>Luskin </strong><em>on the representativeness of the Tomorrow's Europe deliberative poll, both at the opening press conference and in conversation later - but all from before the demographics of the attendees were made available. So, do the <a href="/blog/dliberation/number_crunching">attendance demographics</a> justify their claims?</em> </p> <p> <strong>Fishkin:</strong> We take a scientific sample, the 3500 of all of Europe and then we randomly select some to be invited. We randomly invite in proportion to the representation in the European Parliament... We can compare all the people who come and all the people who don't come... This is something none of the other methods of consultation have... </p> <p> The 3,500 were a good microcosm of Europe. The several hundred who come will also be a good microcosm and we will be able to judge it by that benchmark. The next question is who is in the room? How did they get there? What did they do? </p> <p> Our aim with the deliberative poll is to see how ordinary citizens can come to good information... Many people have found other methods of citizen consultation where they have to come to a conclusion to lead to inequalities and lead to extremes... We have worked out a way to consult the public that does not distort public opinion... </p> <p> <strong>Luskin:</strong> What you have seen in the audience is a true random sample of all of Europe. This means we have people of all walks of life... people from every country, people speaking every language.... It's expensive, which is why it's not done more often on this scale. This is the first. </p> <p> No matter what polling method you use for a given project you only have one sample, so you have to consider what would happen if you did repeated sampling - what are the probabilities? Take any demographic, take a random sample from the population as a whole and repeat, gradually the sample averages will come to resemble the population perfectly. </p> <p> If you set up quotas for your sample, what criteria should you select? That will create a selection bias just by the criteria you choose. Within a population as large and complex as Europe's how can you select appropriate criteria for quotas? Some groups will always miss out, and the quotas will by their very nature heighten the unrepresentativeness of those taking part. </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Tue, 16 Oct 2007 10:28:38 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34828 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Creative Counting https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/number_crunching <p> Do you have number crunching skills we can call on? Right <a href="http://spreadsheets.google.com/a/opendemocracy.net/ccc?key=p7-1jpa-oZS_J-2d4isuQaQ">here is a spreadsheet</a> with what demographic data is available for the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe Deliberative Poll. You can login as readers (@opendemocracy.net), password: readers . You can also download the <a href="/files/demographics.xls">Excel version</a> from here. </p> <p> Some of our questions: </p> <ul> <li>what are the entire EU proportions for these demographics?</li> <li>what is the confidence level that the organisers have used to determine confidence?</li> <li>are there any borderline cases?</li> <li>why have these demographic categories been chosen for control?</li> <li> how badly under-representative is the nationality sample?</li> <li>can we draw any inferences about the impact of nationality on belief given the sample size?</li> <li>what can we say, overal, about the degree of representativeness of the sample?</li> <li>what factors would you have controlled for if you had been designing the experiment?</li> </ul> <p> Professor Fishkin, one of the masterminds of the deliberative polling method, has set out <a href="/blog/dliberation/criteria_for_success">three criteria</a> by which to judge the success of the Tomorrow&#39;s Europe deliberative poll. The first, and arguably most important of these is &quot;Is it representative?&quot; </p> <p> Much of this will naturally come down to opinion, so in an utterly unscientific test, let me know what you think. Check out the spreadsheets, play with the numbers, and let me know the results of your findings via <strong>james.clivematthews [at] opendemocracy.net</strong> - assistance from statisticians especially welcome! </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Mon, 15 Oct 2007 17:53:10 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34821 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Representativeness - the demographics https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/representativeness_the_demographics <p> <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2262/1577818204_3c9b7769c4_o.jpg" alt="Are these people representative?" title="Are these people representative?" width="600" height="200" /></p> <p> I've got the breakdown of the demographics of the participants, and need to see just how closely it correlates to the population of the EU as a whole - because, after all, one of the <a href="/blog/dliberation/criteria_for_success">three criteria for success</a> is to see if the sample is "representative", and pretty much the only way to check that is to look at the demographics. </p> <p> However, I've got a few problems. First, I'm no statistician. Second, all they've provided is a comparison of the actual 362 participants and the initial sample of 3,500, rather than stats from the whole EU (which are notoriously tricky to get hold of). There's also no information about the urban/rural split, incomes, race or religion, which strike me as major oversights.<br /><br /> My feeling is that this was not a representative sample. <a href="/blog/dliberation/first_impressions">As already noted</a>, there wasn't a single black face amongst the participants for starters, with only two that I spotted who were non-white. Can anyone tell me the probability of a random sample of 400 people out of nearly 500,000,000 having only two non-whites, when most estimates put the average non-white population of the EU at <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/eu/story/0,,2012518,00.html">around 5%</a>, meaning there should have been around 20? And can anyone tell me if this then means that the sample isn't representative, or whether it doesn't really matter? </p> <p> Based on clothing alone, I'd also guess that the majority were loosely middle class - possibly born out by the figures that 57.7% of the participants have had at least some university education, while only 8.6% didn't finish secondary school. There is, however, no indication of income in the figures released so far. </p> <p> Plus, of course, there's the whole question - which applies to pretty much any poll, but is still a valid one - of whether people who respond to polls can ever be fully representative. When I've had phone calls asking voting intentions and the like, I always hang up - same with most postal surveys. </p> <p> I did have a chat about all this with Marc-Andre Allard, one of the organisers from TNS Sofres, and Professor Luskin, and will post up my notes of these conversations later. </p> <p> I'll also post a link to the demographic breakdown as soon as I can - but if anyone wants to help me number-crunch, leave a comment or get in touch (via james.clivematthews [at] opendemocracy.net) and I'll send you a scan of the information I've currently got. Thanks! </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Mon, 15 Oct 2007 12:58:29 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34815 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Video of the Tomorrow's Europe event https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/video_of_the_tomorrows_europe_event <p> Often in French, but still - from French station TF1. It should give a good indication of what it was like to have so many different nationalities all crammed together: </p> <p> <a href="http://tf1.lci.fr/infos/europe-allianz/0,,3571522,00-tomorrow-europe-best-seance-introductive-.html">A general overview</a>, including an interview with Professor Fishkin </p> <p> <a href="http://tf1.lci.fr/infos/europe-allianz/0,,3571517,00-tomorrow-europe-seance-introductive-.html">Friday&#39;s introductory session</a>, in multiple languages, mostly dubbed into French when not originally French </p> <p> <a href="http://tf1.lci.fr/infos/europe-allianz/0,,3571512,00-tomorrow-europe-seance-pleniere-.html">The first expert Q&amp;A</a>, as above - hope your French is good... </p> <p> <a href="http://tf1.lci.fr/infos/europe-allianz/0,,3571518,00-tomorrow-europe-best-journee-samedi-.html">The best of Saturday</a> - the Jobs &amp; Pensions Q&amp;A, now in multiple languages, not dubbed into French </p> <p> <a href="http://tf1.lci.fr/infos/europe-allianz/0,,3571513,00-tomorrow-europe-seance-pleniere-.html">Saturday afternoon&#39;s Q&amp;A</a> - the first to look at foreign affairs. Note that you need to skip in about 17 minutes before anything starts happening with this one, the rest is just the chamber filling up... </p> <p> <a href="http://tf1.lci.fr/infos/europe-allianz/0,,3571514,00-tomorrow-europe-seance-pleniere-.html">Sunday&#39;s Q&amp;A</a> - again on foreign affairs. This one was conducted mainly in English, and had one of the best panels (featuring as it did David Trimble, the Bulgarian Prime Minister, the Italian Finance Minister and decent Danish eurosceptic MEP Jens-Peter Bonde) - but has now been dubbed into French... </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Mon, 15 Oct 2007 10:41:39 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34812 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The logistics - impressions and suggestions https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/the_logistics_impressions_and_suggestions <p> <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2133/1576724602_8b3ce75e6a_o.jpg" alt="Leaving the European Parliament" title="Leaving the European Parliament" width="600" height="200" /></p> <p> The logistics of this last weekend were quite incredible - even more so than I had imagined. Yes, I may have been a tad critical of the pre-poll information distribution, but considering the sheer scale, it's surprising they got anything out. </p> <p> Anyway, back to the main logistics. In the end there were 362 participants, each of whom had to be provided with transport, food and accommodation. </p> <p> The 27 member states were all represented, as were the 23 official languages - necessitating a whole slew of interpretors to enable everyone to understand what was going on, using the European Parliament's fancy simultaneous interpretation system (with the most uncomfortable headphones in the world and numerous technical problems that then had to be swiftly overcome). </p> <p> The 362 were then split in to 18 different groups, containing 2-3 different language speakers, with each group given a moderator and sent off to a room in the labyrinthine European Parliament building, where yet more interpreters would await them. Then there's the catering staff for the coffee, lunch and tea breaks, as well as the buffet dinners on the Friday and Saturday night, the production of all the information packs in all the various different languages, and the attempts to bring in interesting expert speakers that included Nobel Peace Prize winners and current heads of state. </p> <p> Plus, of course, you've got all the various observers from the press, partner organisations, etc. getting in the way trying to interview people and the like - and with everyone other than the organisers given identity cards that, from a distance, looked identitcal, the whole thing could very easily have descended into chaos. </p> <p> As it is, a few suggestions for anyone trying to organise something similar in future: </p> <p> 1) Have a larger <strong>core organisational team</strong>. Notre Europe put this together with a key team of just five people, and they all looked knackered beyond belief. It's too much - especially considering that due to the nature of the poll, most of the organisational work has to be done in the last few weeks as the participants are selected and finalised. </p> <p> 2) You need more than just a single, Part-time <strong>public relations</strong> person. Daniela did her very best, and was helpful and smiling throughout, despite looking about ready to drop - but press exposure is vital for this kind of enterprise, and much has probably been missed out on thanks to not having a larger team. </p> <p> 3) Participants and observers need to be better <strong>colour-coded</strong>. Organisers had red ribbons, participants and observers both blue. This meant distinguishing who'd who very difficult indeed. I'd also suggest, for any multi-language poll, that some kind of indication of the country/language the participants speak is indicated on their ID card - national flags or something. For the deliberation to really work, the participants need to discuss with people outside their core groups as much as possible - but at the social events in between sessions, no one could tell who they could speak to, so most ended up stuck with their fellow countrymen from their own small groups. </p> <p> 4) A better solution has to be found for <strong>questioning the experts</strong> than merely getting all 360-odd participants sat in the main chamber of the European Parliament in front of a panel of five politicians/academics, who then vaguely respond to a selection of 18 questions, one from each group. Even if - as they tried to do - you allow each expert only two minutes to respond (which is nowhere near long enough for a decent answer), that still means a solid three hours of Q&amp;A, and you're still only getting a superficial response. A number of the participants seemed dissatisfied with the answers they recieved from the experts, and little wonder insuch circumstances. </p> <p> 5) The <strong>moderators</strong> need to be better trained, to ensure that everyone always gets an equal say. The groups I sat in on were mostly fine, but a number of people only spoke when called on, with more forceful personalities dominating the discussion. This is always the danger with any political debate - and the moderators need to reduce the impact of those domineering personalities as much as possible. </p> <p> 6) The moderators also need to be shown how to do a better job of helping the group select their <strong>questions</strong> to be put to the experts - the majority of these were bland and had obvious answers, ("How can the EU harmonise state pensions?" Answer: "It can't - pensions don't fall within the EU's remit"), some were incredible wastes of time ("What is the role of the European Parliament?" was a question on the final day - if after three days they still don't know that, there's no hope...) </p> <p> Other impressions to follow soon - still recovering from a lovely combination of celebrating Saturday night's rugby result followed by yesterday's Eurostar back not getting in to London until 10pm - 11pm by my current body clock... </p> <p> The results of the final survey are expected on Thursday - but in the meantime I now have the demographics of the participants - time for some number-crunching to test these claims of representativeness... </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Mon, 15 Oct 2007 10:19:40 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34811 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A quick update from Brussels: criteria for success https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/a_quick_update_from_brussels_criteria_for_success <p> <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2367/1567612469_76cd9b7fc9_o.jpg" alt="A small group discussion" title="A small group discussion" width="600" height="200" /></p> <p> Internet access within the European Parliament building has not been as easy to get hold of as you might think, hence the lack of posts over this weekend. Having sat in on small group discussions, spoken to various organisers and participants, and seen more about how the whole thing works, I'll hope to report in full over the next few days, having written up my extensive notes. Liveblogging, however, has sadly proved impossible... </p> <p> Initial impression? It's certainly an interesting experiment - though I'm not sure if a group of nearly 400 people isn't just too big for this to really work on a practical level. Which creates additional problems - because much smaller than that, the arguments for representativeness (on which more over the next few days) become far, far less convincing. </p> <p> In the press conference I'm currently sitting in, Professor Fishkin has laid out his three criteria for success: </p> <p> 1) Is it representative? </p> <p> 2) Is it deliberative? </p> <p> 3) Will decision-makers listen to the results? </p> <p> Fishkin seems hopeful, noting that the participants seem to be representative, that discussions took place throughout the last few days, and noting that both the Bulgarian Prime Minister (a speaker at this afternoon's final plenary meeting) and Jens-Peter Bonde, the Danish MEP, have become proponents of deliberative polling, even though one is very pro-EU, the other somewhat anti-. </p> <p> He seems happy, but is his satisfaction justified? As the results of the final poll are collated, I'll do my best to number-crunch... </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Sun, 14 Oct 2007 12:10:37 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34804 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Utterly unscientific first impressions https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/utterly_unscientific_first_impressions <p> (Hastily scribbled from the bowels of the European Parliament building...) </p> <p> <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2259/1552983841_10c9b828df_o.jpg" alt="The launch of the poll, European Parliament, 12th October 2007" title="The launch of the poll, European Parliament, 12th October 2007" width="600" height="200" /></p> <p> The main parliament chamber is surprisingly bright - especially for anyone used to the ancient gloom of the House of Commons. Also unsurprisingly rather larger than the Commons, with 780-odd seats for MEPs. </p> <p> I also have a lot more respect for MEPs now - the headphones necessary for the simultaneous interpreting (most of this event = conducted in French). Incredibly uncomfortable... No padding and far too tight, even after adjustment... To sit through lengthy political debates in any parliament can be mind-numbingly tedious - to have to do it while your head's being squashed would be a nightmare. A form of torture by multilingualism. </p> <p> My first impression of the participants in this deliberative poll was that there didn't appear to be a single black / asian face amongst the participants. Admittedly, after the expansion to 27 member states, the percentage of the European population that is non-white has dropped considerably (many of the eastern European, ex-communist states containing very few non-caucasians) - but even so. The lack of racial representation in the European Parliament is even more acute than in Westminster - it would have been nice to have rectified this via this sample.<br /><br /> I did eventually spot someone - looked early 20s and of far eastern origin. A bit later the camera zoomed in on another - looked 60+ and probably Indian/Pakistani heritage. I later spotted a few more ethnic minority faces - but out of those six or seven, at least five turned out to be members of the press or part of the organisational team. So far, I'd estimate a grand total of four non-white faces out of c.400 participants.<br /><br /> To continue with my utterly unscientific first impressions, there appear to be significantly more people in the c.18-40 agerange than 40+. - would be interesting to see the demographic break-down. The gender split looked pretty even, however - but the demographic breakdown of the participants won't be released until Sunday. They've been stressing the representativeness repeatedly, so I doubt they've got this wrong, but even so...<br /><br /> Another possible cause for concern - the Moderators all look like they're in their twenties. What's their background? Researchers at the European Parliament? Will they have the authority to prevent overbearing older participants from dominating the deliberations? Are they employees of EU institutions, and therefore liaible to bring their own bias to the deliberation? Are they sufficiently trained to ensure a free and fair debate of the kind essential for the poll's success and credibility?<br /><br /> I'm now about to head off to observe some of the discussions - perhaps I'll be able to find out... </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Fri, 12 Oct 2007 17:33:09 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34788 at https://www.opendemocracy.net On not having the foggiest https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/on_not_having_the_foggiest Approaching Brussels, a thick mist had enveloped the fields of Flanders - a homogenous gray mass, broken only intermittently by a bedraggled cow or the odd row of poplars. A featureless expanse, with little clarity amidst the gloomy early afternoon.<br /> <br /> The Tomorrow&#39;s Europe poll is set to kick off in a little over two hours - and the events of the coming weekend remain about as clear to me as the view from the train.<br /> <br /> One vague bit of reassurance, however - at Waterloo I bumped into a representative of one of the poll&#39;s partner organizations, met at the launch last month. It seems that I&#39;m not the only one without the foggiest what&#39;s going on - despite the fact that they are due to sit on the launch panel this evening, and despite repeated requests for information, they also have no idea precisely where tonight&#39;s events are taking place beyond &quot;the European Parliament&quot;. It&#39;s a big building, the European Parliament...<br /> <br /> If even partner organisations - and people who are meant to be sitting on the panel at this evening&#39;s launch - don&#39;t know what&#39;s going on where or when, and haven&#39;t been informed of any details, what hope have the press got?<br /> <br /> This isn&#39;t, however, just the usual moaning journalist thing. Considering the vast expense of publicising initiatives like this, getting the press on board and interested is vital to let people know what&#39;s going on. If the press haven&#39;t got a clue, how can the people of Europe - the essential part of the mix to get on board if this sort of poll is ever going to be able to be taken seriously as a tool of government - be made aware of what&#39;s going on in Brussels this weekend? Without convincing the people that such polling methods are every bit as transparent and fair as courtroom juries, their findings will always be rejected.<br /> <br /> The Tomorrow&#39;s Europe organisers are claiming to be creating &quot;the EU in microcosm&quot;. That&#39;s becoming prophetic in ways not envisaged by the organisers - for the lack of press coverage and accessible information has long been one of the biggest obstacles to the formation of a European demos. Is this a taste of things to come, or will Tomorrow&#39;s Europe be able to pull something out of the bag at the last minute? I&#39;ll hope to report back soon - assuming I can find where this evening&#39;s events are taking place...<br /> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Fri, 12 Oct 2007 14:09:58 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34778 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Off to Brussels https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/off_to_brussels <p> All being well in two hours I&#39;ll be on a Eurostar, two hours after that in Brussels. Then I need to keep my fingers crossed - I&#39;ve still had no confirmation that I&#39;m registered to attend, and have had no confirmation of the schedule, location, or anything. </p> <p> This evening I should be reporting back from the introductory press briefing (somewhere in the European Parliament building at around 5:30 local time) and the first deliberation session (on pensions - what fun!). But without any details, and with no confirmation of whether there will be internet access available, I may end up reporting from my hotel room instead... Wish me luck - and if the worst comes to the worst, expect reports and pictures on Monday. </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Fri, 12 Oct 2007 08:23:20 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34776 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Publicity, apathy and ignorace https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/publicity_apathy_and_ignorace <p> <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2387/1541276515_b018592f92_o.jpg" alt="Ignorance is bliss" title="Ignorance is bliss" width="600" height="200" /></p> <p> Deliberative polls are an unfamiliar concept. As they are designed to create a representation of what the public would think were they to have access to all the information and a chance to debate freely amongst themselves, there is always the danger that the public at large will respond to their results with a resounding "what? Who are you to tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about?" </p> <p> In a sense, of course, deliberative polls are a bit like juries with the need for a unanimous decision removed. The major difference - and one that cannot be overstated - is that we all understand the concept of juries, and accept their verdict (well, unless the trial involves OJ Simpson, at any rate...) </p> <p> Over the last few weeks, I've been trying to keep track of mentions of the Tomorrow's Europe poll in the <a href="http://news.google.co.uk/news?q=%22tomorrow&#039;s%20europe%22&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;oe=UTF-8&amp;rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&amp;client=firefox-a&amp;um=1&amp;sa=N&amp;tab=wn">press</a> and world of <a href="http://technorati.com/blogs/tomorrowseurope.eu?reactions">blogs</a>. It hasn't been difficult - <a href="http://tomorrowseurope.eu/spip.php?article100">there's hardly been any</a>. Supposedly the BBC's flagship current affairs show Newsnight is going to be attending to produce a report, and no doubt the results of the poll may attract a bit of attention, but in the run-up there's been hardly any coverage at all. </p> <p> And herein lies one of the EU's fundamental problems: people simply aren't interested in the European Union. It's not a sexy subject and it rarely holds much excitement. This is why the only time the EU tends to feature in the news is when there's some supposed crisis - usually some apparently ridiculous new regulations (usually <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/press/euromyths/index_en.htm">wildly misinterpreted</a>). </p> <p> How can you get people actively involved in an organisation they find mind-numbingly dull? As British politics has increasingly shifted towards discussions about the personalities of the leaders (viz. the recent debate over a possible UK general election being all about whether one MP, Gordon Brown - rather than the 645 other MPs elected last time around - has a mandate), who to look to in the EU as a personality? The president of the European Commission? The president of the European Parliament? The current EU president? (The holder's Portugal at the moment, by the way - and I'd lay a tenner on no more than 1 in 100 people picked randomly off the street being able to answer that without prompting.) </p> <p> Hell, in the British system for electing MEPs you can't even vote for an individual, just a party. The other day I tried to remember the name of a single MEP for London. <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/vote2004/euro_uk/html/39.stm">No chance</a>. </p> <p> With such a system, little wonder there is so much apathy, such low turnouts (the European average in the 2004 elections being <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Parliament_election%2C_2004#Results_by_country">just 45%</a>). And with less than half the electorate bothering to vote on the rare occasions when the public can actually have a say in how the EU is run, never mind getting interest in the Tomorrow's Europe poll to get the public to accept the legitimacy of its findings - what hope is there for the EU itself to claim legitimacy? </p> <p> The problem of the lack of publicity for the Tomorrow's Europe poll, in other words, shows that the problem is far deeper than merely the difficulty of getting "all Europe in one room", the poll's primary aim. Because even when you do manage to get people from all over the EU talking as one, just as with pretty much anything else the EU ever does, the vast majority of the population simply aren't interested. </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation Public debate Thu, 11 Oct 2007 12:36:34 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34762 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Two days to go - the topics for discussion https://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/j_clive_matthews/two_days_to_go_the_topics_for_discussion <p> So, in two days&#39; time I&#39;ll be in Brussels and finally finding out more detail about what this is all about. Assuming, of course, that I&#39;m actually registered for the event - I sent off the forms two weeks ago, but as yet have recieved no confirmation that they&#39;re expecting me, or any more detailed schedule than the one I was passed by someone at one of the poll&#39;s partner organisations three weeks ago. </p> <p> However, the website does now give <a href="http://www.tomorrowseurope.eu/spip.php?article134">a few clues as to what&#39;s going on</a>. The major topics for debate - split over five sessions of between an hour and a quarter and two hours each - are jobs, pensions and foreign relations. </p> <p> Mmmmm... Discussing European employment policy on a Friday night (that session runs from 6 to 7:30pm on Friday evening) - what could possibly be more fun? I&#39;ll be even more intrigued to meet some of the participants now - I mean, I&#39;m actually interested in this sort of thing, and that sounds remarkably unappealing. Sat in Brussels, a city deservedly known for having some of the finest beer in the world, on a Friday night - and discussing how the EU could facilitate growth in employment? Fun fun fun! </p> <p> To someone looking at the poll&#39;s name, and noting that the event comes just a few days before the new EU Reform Treaty is due to be finalised in Lisbon on the 18th/19th, these choices seem somewhat odd, to say the least. Surely this is the ideal opportunity to test the water with the people of Europe to see if the new treaty would be met with approval if anyone could work out what it&#39;s all about? </p> <p> Plus, of course, to anyone familiar with the British debate over the EU, the immediate reaction is likely to be &quot;pensions and foreign policy? But the EU doesn&#39;t have any say over pensions and foreign policy!&quot; </p> <p> It&#39;s all very odd - does anyone know why it was these topics that came up for discussion? It&#39;s surely not because one of the major <a href="http://www.tomorrowseurope.eu/spip.php?rubrique14">sponsors</a> is a <a href="http://www.allianz-france.fr/">financial services provider</a>, is it? Rest assured, I&#39;ll do my best to find out. </p> J Clive Matthews dLiberation The Poll Wed, 10 Oct 2007 16:22:04 +0000 J Clive Matthews 34750 at https://www.opendemocracy.net