National Deliberative Poll “Policies toward the Roma in Bulgaria. Ghettoes, Crime, Education”

September 2006 - September 2007
Ralitsa Peeva, Ivan Krastev, Yana Papazova and Anna Ganeva

The Second National Deliberative Poll in Bulgaria was initiated by CLS on Policies toward the Roma in Bulgaria in Sofia. The Second National Deliberative Poll was organized by CLS,  Alpha Research, Bulgarian National Television, NGO Links and the Open Society Institute, Sofia. The deliberations took place in the National Palace of Culture, Sofia on April 14-15, 2007 and were televised nationally.

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 social and economic situation of the Roma is one of the most serious problems caused by the transition in Bulgaria. This issue increasingly affects the whole society. The Roma live in extreme poverty, they are isolated in ghettoes, they lack adequate education, and they have few opportunities to find a job. Generations of Roma live only on welfare.
The main issues discussed in the National Deliberative Poll “Policies toward the Roma in Bulgaria” were: “How to Deal with the Roma Ghettoes,” “Penal Policy,” and “How to Solve the Problem with the Education of the Roma.” A final panel dealed with “The Solutions of the Politicians" where ministers and prominent parliamentarians from all major political parties in Bulgaria answered questions on all issues of the debate.

The National Deliberative Poll®  of Bulgaria on policies toward the Roma produced many strong and statistically significant changes in the direction of an integrationist perspective. The scientific sample of 255 residents drawn from around the country by Alpha Research spent the weekend of April 14-15, 2007 deliberating about three issues affecting the Roma: Housing, Crime and Education.

Housing: After deliberation, participants expressed far less support for separate Roma neighborhoods but increased support for measures that would help the Roma obtain adequate and legal housing. Those who thought that “the Roma should live in separate Roma neighborhoods” declined from 43% to 21% while those who thought the government “should legalize those buildings that meet current regulations and then destroy the rest” rose from 66% to 77%.

Criminal justice: After deliberation participants approved employing more Roma among the police and in the courts. They also objected more strongly to police checks applied just to the Roma. The percentage agreeing that “the government should hire more Roma police officers” rose from 32% to 56%, while those agreeing that “the government should hire more Roma in the court” rose from 26% to 45%. Those who “agreed strongly” that “more frequent police checks just of the Roma would be unfair” rose from 16% to 27% (and those agreeing strongly or somewhat rose from 29% to 34%).

Education: After deliberation, support rose for integrating Roma children into Bulgarian schools and for closing the separate Roma schools. Those agreeing that “The Roma schools should be closed and all the children should be transported by buses to their new school” rose from 42% to 66%. Support for maintaining separate Roma schools also fell dramatically. The sample also thought lack of knowledge of Bulgarian language and culture was an impediment to education of the Roma. Those agreeing that this was a reason “Roma children are reluctant to attend school” rose from 38% to 59%.

For more information and materials, please contact Yana Papazova - yana@cls-sofia.org

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.

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