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What would democracy be like if people were really thinking in depth about the policies they must live with? If they truly deliberated with trusted information about their political choices?
Democracy requires a connection to the will of the people. What does that mean in a world of fake news, relentless advocacy, dialogue mostly among the like-minded, and massive spending to manipulate public opinion? What kind of opinion can the public have under such conditions?
Professor James Fishkin argues that deliberative democracy is not utopian. It is a practical solution to many of democracy's ills. It can supplement existing institutions with practical reforms. It can apply at all levels of government and for many different types of policy choices.
Professor Fishkin’s research speaks to a recurring dilemma: listen to the people and get the angry voices of populism or rely on widely distrusted elites and get policies that seem out of touch with the public's concerns. Instead, there are methods for getting a representative and thoughtful public voice that really is worth listening to.
Democracy is under siege in most countries, where democratic institutions have low approval and face a resurgent threat from authoritarian regimes. Deliberative democracy can provide an antidote and can reinvigorate our democratic politics.
Find out more about the RSA’s work on deliberative democracy: