Capturing meaningful information about public opinion

James Semple, from Seaton Town Council in Devon, asked how the internet can be used instead of town polls to help decide how to allocate public funds.

Whilst there has been a large amount written about participatory budgeting schemes that is worth reading I’m wanting to make the point that blogging software such as WordPress can be used much more powerfully than for simple polls.

Generally it’s probably cheaper to run a paper poll than an online poll. ┬áThe expensive bit is making sure that you reach everyone that is entitled to vote and that you do it in a manner that is accountable, robust and fair. It will be difficult to avoid that expense online or offline if you’re looking for a binding poll.

So what about self-selecting online polls? Well they are self-selecting and therefore easily dismissed.

The real strength of using a blog to assess opinion is that it can be deliberative. Invite the competing projects to describe their ideas, to take questions from each other and any other members of the public. Don’t just judge the projects as they stand. Invite them to improve their ideas using the feedback received from other participants. ┬áLater on invite others to express an informed opinion. Let the elected officials then base their decisions on an informed constructive delberation