National Deliberative Poll "Fighting Crime in Bulgaria"

January 2002 - December 2002
Ralitsa Peeva, Ivan Krastev and Yana Papazova

The first Deliberative Poll in Eastern Europe was initiated and conducted by the CLS on Fighting Crime in Bulgaria in Sofia, National Palace of Culture, 11-13 October 2002 .  

Deliberative Polling® is an attempt to use television and public opinion research in a new and constructive way. A random, representative sample is first polled on targeted issues. After this baseline poll, members of the sample are invited to gather at a single place to discuss the issues. They receive carefully balanced briefing materials, which are also made publicly available. The participants engage in dialogue with competing experts and political leaders based on questions they develop in small group discussions with trained moderators. Parts of the weekend events are broadcast on television, either live or in taped and edited form. After the weekend deliberations, the sample is again asked the original questions. The resulting changes in opinion represent the conclusions the public would reach, if people had the opportunity to become more informed and more engaged by the issues.

Professor James Fishkin of Stanford University originated the concept of Deliberative Polling® in 1988. He has served as either Director or Academic Advisor for all of the Deliberative Polling® events conducted thus far. He is the Director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University. Professor Fishkin has been working on each project in close collaboration with Professor Robert Luskin, Associate Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University. Deliberative Polling® events have been conducted in the US, Great Britain, Australia, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Ireland, and China.

Professor Fishkin and his colleague Professor Robert Luskin have consulted and supported the  Deliberative Polls in Bulgaria in 2002 and 2007.

The first Deliberative Poll in Eastern Europe gathered at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia on 11-13 October 2002. A weekend sample of 283 had been recruited from a national random sample of 1035. According to all organizers the weekend deliberators were representative on virtually all demographic and attitudinal variables (age, ethnic group, education, income, children in the home, occupation and on all the substantive issues about crime).

There were a number of dramatic, statistically significant changes of opinion. Most notably on capital punishment and two issues that have become controversial in Bulgaria--the independence of the prosecutor's office and the investigation services. Both are widely regarded in Bulgaria as immune from all accountability at present. The sample changed its views about these issues and notably, the representatives of all four major parties pledged themselves publicly at the concluding session to work to change the constitution to make both the prosecutor's office and the investigation service more accountable. This has already made headlines in the major newspapers.

Before deliberation, 58% agreed that the death penalty was the only punishment for certain kinds of crime. After deliberation that dropped to 45%, a drop of 13 points. (Also before the event, 55% agreed that the death penalty was a useful measure in the combat against crime. After deliberation this percentage dropped dramatically to 34 %, a drop of 21 points.) Before deliberation, 45% favored moving the investigation service to the Ministry of the Interior. After deliberation that rose to 78%, an increase of 33 points. Before deliberation, there was 30% support for one of the reform options--making the Prosecution accountable to Parliament. After deliberation this increased to 46%, an increase of 16 points. By the end of the weekend, there was only 16% support for the status quo.

It is worth noting that the current state of the Prosecutor's office was an issue that the public knew little about. Before deliberation, only 17% knew that it was false that "the Chief Prosecutor is responsible to and accountable to Parliament." After deliberation, that rose to 50%, an increase of 33 points. Before deliberation, only 53% knew that "a confession is not enough to find the defendant guilty." After deliberation this rose to 66%, an increase of 13 points.

More information on the Deliberative Polling® method and Deliberative Polls conducted so far around the world, as well as contacts and details for Prof. James Fishkin and Prof. Robert Luskin are available at Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University - cdd.stanford.edu

For additional information regarding the Bulgarian Deliberative Poll, please contact Yana Papazova – yana@cls-sofia.org

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