Collaborative Research: A Multi-State Investigation of Small Group and Mass Public Decision Making on Fiscal and Scientific Controversies through the Citizens' Initiative Review

Project: Research project

Project Details


In 2010, the Oregon state government authorized the first Citizens' Initiative Review (CIR), which convened two random samples of twenty-four registered voters for five days of deliberation on a pair of statewide initiatives. At the end of their deliberations, each citizen panel wrote a one-page analysis that went into the official pamphlet sent by the Secretary of State to every registered voter. Starting in 2014, the CIR's organizers are attempting to transform this process into a more cost-effective and scalable means of informing public decision making that extends beyond Oregon. Changes to the CIR's design and issue-focus permit a study on the limits and potential of democratic deliberation, with a focus on scientific controversies.

A multi-method investigation of the 2014 CIR will employ direct observation, transcript analysis, and panelist surveys. Case study analysis of four separate CIR panels will assess the democratic and deliberative quality of lay citizen decision making on scientifically complex issues via streamlined, digital discussion procedures. Additional studies will examine how the wider public incorporates the CIR's information and recommendations into its decision making. A multi-state usability study of the voter pamphlet will provide a more refined picture of how voters use and understand the CIR's one-page analysis. An online survey experiment will incorporate findings from the usability study into an online voter guide to test how proposed alterations to the CIR's design shape the public's trust in the CIR's issue analyses. Finally, a mail survey will test the efficacy of distributing CIR findings via conventional media channels.

Our research will aid civic reformers designing deliberative processes, as well as legislators considering the adoption of the CIR and similar designs. Our collaborative research model also advances the professional development of the numerous graduate students and junior faculty working on this project.

Effective start/end date4/15/143/31/17


  • National Science Foundation: $301,658.00


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