Empowering citizen deliberation in direct democratic elections: A field study of the 2012 oregon citizens’ initiative review

Katherine R. Knobloch, John Gastil, Traci Feller, Robert C. Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Initiatives and referenda permit citizens to vote directly on legislation, but voters often lack essential policy information when deciding whether to support the measures on their ballots. Since citizens often do not trust policy experts and political elites to provide trustworthy information, the State of Oregon (USA) created an institution to address that problem. After an initial test in 2010, Oregon’s governor signed into law the Citizens’ Initiative Review Commission, which convened two stratifed random samples of twenty-four Oregon voters. The frst panel spent a week examining a tax reform measure, and the second reviewed a measure that would establish private casinos. At the end of their deliberations, each panel produced a one-page Citizens’ Statement that was included in a Voters’ Pamphlet, which the Secretary of State mailed to every registered Oregon voter. Using direct observation, panelist interviews, and large-sample, statewide surveys, researchers studied the deliberative quality and statewide impact of this unique process. They discovered that the panels met a high standard for deliberation, both from the researchers’ perspective as observers and from the point of view of the participants themselves. A majority of Oregon voters became aware of the process, which produced relevant and factually accurate statements. Roughly two-thirds of those who read the statements found them to be helpful when deciding how to vote. Finally, an online survey experiment shows that reading the statements increased voter knowledge substantially. Thus, the Citizens’ Initiative Review appears to provide a viable model for using citizen-centered deliberation to inform the judgments of the voting public.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalField Actions Science Report
StatePublished - Oct 31 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Education
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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