Public deliberation on policies has many advantages

Deliberative democracy is a way of including citizens in policy debates. Methods include citizen juries, deliberative polling and consensus conferences. These are often termed “mini-publics”.

Research by Alaistair Stark, N. K. Thompson and Greg Marston shows deliberation can change participants’ opinions when it comes to public policy. Citizens who participate in mini-publics often listen to the arguments of others and form different views.

The existence of preference transformation casts doubt on the evidence from snapshot consultation tools such as surveys. Exposure to expert information from different perspectives and a process of listening to others talk policy led to people who supported a proposal rejecting it completely and it also encouraged changes in opinion about specific aspects of policy.

The research also shows policymakers are reluctant to share their authority with citizens. This means deliberative mechanisms often produce robust decisions which are ignored by the people who implement them.