Deliberative polling

$1k to $5k
estimated cost of external help
  • Scan and research
  • Prioritise options
  • Consult
  • Deliberate
3-5 weeks
estimated run time
3-5 weeks
estimated lead time
Strong communicator
recommended experience
A method designed to provide a snapshot of how an ‘informed’ public might feel about an issue. The process gives participants information about an issue and time to deliberate on it before they are asked for their opinions.

This activity is typically conducted with members of the public, ideally with a representative sample in order to use the results as a guide to what the originating population would think if they had a similar opportunity to deliberate.

In 5 steps...

  1. Conduct a baseline survey to analyse how the information provided might change opinions.
  2. Send out briefing material to participants, including the timing of any additional info sessions.
  3. Allow enough time for participants to consider all the material.
  4. Conduct a final survey, and potentially interview participants to understand if and why opinions were changed.
  5. Write up the results, focusing particularly on the change between ‘before’ and ‘after’, and which messaging was key to the change.

When to use it

As a consultative method, this is best used during planning to inform design, or to present options and understand the alignment with a proposed solution.

Deliberative polls are particularly informative when you want to engage on complex issues that the public knows little about.


  • Enables broad and representative feedback.
  • Improved knowledge of stakeholder needs.
  • May reach those who would not otherwise engage.
  • Can uncover key communications messaging that may be required to educate the public and/or get their buy-in.
  • Identifies the risk of divisive opinions on a topic.
Long term
  • Increased public understanding of trade-offs and the complexity of the issues.
  • Higher-quality, better-aligned solutions.
  • Better educative communication for the public on issues of concern.


  • Because participants have access to information and time that the general public doesn’t, this technique may not make key tensions as obvious as general polling techniques.
  • The results of deliberative polling will not be representative of general sentiment. They should be used to inform what communication may be needed to improve sentiment, rather than for risk analysis.



  • Identify and clearly articulate the issue or solution/s you want the participants to consider.
  • Gather or create briefing materials that provide a balanced account of all the information needed for decision-making.
  • Ensure the briefing material is reviewed by an impartial entity or advisory committee, so that the information is accurate and unbiased.
  • Determine the scope for the population that will be measured, and the make-up and size required for a meaningful sample.
  • Use a sourcing agent or advertise for participants until the right sample quota is met.
  • Communicate the process to participants.
  • Get in touch with key information contacts and schedule events that enable participants to ask questions or get further information.

During the process

  • If required, use a survey or interview to gather baseline opinion data.
  • Distribute briefing materials to participants.
  • Allow participants enough time to read and absorb the briefing material and attend any planned events (often 2–4 days).
  • Conduct final interviews or surveys to record views on the issue/solutions.


  • If not completed during the process, consider interviewing select participants to understand what information was most critical to their opinion, and what (if anything) made them change their opinion.
  • Ensure participants are included in any final distribution of the outcomes, so they understand the impact their input had as part of an overarching decision-making process.