SRU students selected for national polling event hosted by Stanford


Event graphic

Slippery Rock University is one of 37 colleges and universities in the U.S. to have students participating in “Shaping Our Future,” a virtual deliberative polling event hosted by Stanford University, May 1-2.

April 7, 2021

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Beyond the partisan debates and back-and-forth takedowns that occur on social media, there are better forms of deliberation that allow people to consider relevant information from multiple points of view. Slippery Rock University students will be involved in such deliberation, as SRU was selected to partner in the largest national deliberative event ever carried out among young people in the United States.

SRU is one of 37 colleges and universities in the U.S. that will have students participating in "Shaping Our Future," a virtual deliberative polling event hosted by Stanford University, Berggruen Institute and Equal Citizens, May 1-2. Invitations were recently emailed to a random sample of 400 SRU students to participate in the polling event that will bring more than 1,500 people together for democratic deliberation. At least 17 SRU students will ultimately participate but they will remain anonymous leading up to the event.

"This is really exciting for our University to be part of this nationwide effort," said Jeffrey Rathlef, SRU director of community-engaged learning. "The goal is to identify young people's policy preferences as a result of this national dialogue. This will show where people ages 18 to 29 fall on salient issues such as electoral reform, climate change and national service and other major issues that will influence policy."

Rathlef and SRU's Office for Community-Engaged Learning partnered with SRU faculty, led by Jana Asher, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, to submit a proposal to include SRU in the polling event. Asher is one of the 2020-21 OCEL service-learning associates, which is a group of SRU faculty who are partnering with the OCEL to collaborate on shared goals that promote and advance SRU as an engaged campus. 

Jeffery Rathlef


Although only 17 SRU students will be recruited for the main polling event, all SRU students from the 400 random sampling who agree to participate will be placed in a parallel track by the polling event organizers.

Deliberative polling is a technique developed by James Fishkin, a Stanford University professor of communication and political science (by courtesy), who is the director of Stanford's Center for Deliberative Democracy. This type of polling is intended to deepen the public's engagement with, and understanding of, public policy choices.

Participants receive briefing materials in advance and complete a pre-survey on their initial views, then come together for small group deliberations and plenary sessions with balanced panels of experts before completing a post-survey to understand how their opinions changed.

According to organizers, "The goal is not to reach consensus but to understand how a representative sample of a population would feel about various policy proposals if they had an opportunity to become informed about them." Additionally, organizers said research suggests that deliberative polling impacts the participants, reducing partisanship, increasing understanding of alternative perspectives and deepening engagement in the political process.

"Instead of limiting the dialogue to one class or campus, or relying on social media exchanges, this event will bring young people together from across the country," Fishkin said in a statement. "(This event provides) a unique opportunity for participants to hear perspectives across differences of politics, geography, socioeconomic background, race and ethnicity, religion and lived experience."

Half of the 18- to 29-year-old participants will be randomly selected from the 37 partner institutions representing more than 20 states. The event will also involve 750 young people who are not enrolled in - or have not completed - a postsecondary program.

During the "Shaping our Future" event, participants will deliberate in small groups using a customized online platform and consider a range of proposals on issues including climate change, electoral reform, national service programs, COVID relief and increasing the minimum wage. Participants will have an opportunity to ask questions in plenary sessions with political leaders and issue area experts. 

"Young people often feel shut out of the public policy conversation, even though these issues directly impact them now and in the future," said Luke Terra, associate director at Stanford's Haas Center for Public Service. "Each of our partner campuses represents a unique community and context, and we are excited to bring these young people together to learn from one another about possible solutions to some of our most complex challenges."

More information about "Shaping Our Future," including a list of partner schools, is available on the Stanford website.

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