ASC Science Sundays: Michael Neblo – Politics With the People

(“Hang on Sloppy”)
♪ Ba, da, ba, da, ba, da, da ♪ ♪ Hang on, Sloopy ♪
(people clapping rhythmically) ♪ Sloopy, hang on ♪ – How is everybody today? Welcome to this year’s very
first Science Sundays lecture. I’m so happy you guys
were all able to make it. It’s a pleasure to see all of you here. Science Sundays is a
series of public lectures that take place during the academic year. We bring in experts from
Ohio State University, like our speaker today, as well as experts from around the world to
come and talk about science, and science that is important to each of our everyday lives, oftentimes. We specifically choose speakers, again, like today’s speaker, who have the ability to present science in
ways that are interesting, entertaining, and also understandable by people regardless of
their science background. That’s the idea of Science Sundays, it’s to bring science to the public. My name is Ellen Peters. I’m a distinguished
professor of psychology here at Ohio State University. I am also on the Science Sundays committee because I’m also director of a
center, a center that happens to be called the Decision
Sciences Collaborative. We are an interdisciplinary community of faculty and graduate
students focused on the science of how we assess risks and
benefits in our complex world, and ultimately on how we make choices that affect our short-term wellbeing as well as our long-term wellbeing. You can find out more about us, if you’re interested, at We also have a public discussion on the neuroscience of self control, in case you’re interested. It’s coming up on Thursday,
November 1st at 6 p.m., in this very room, it was organized by Dr. Ian Krajbich of psychology. If you’re interested,
I hope you can join us. I also have a few flyers with me if you kept catch up with
me after the lecture. The Decision Sciences Collaborative is funded by social and
behavioral sciences, and we’re part of the
College of Arts and Sciences. Today, we’re lucky enough to have our brand new divisional dean
to introduce today’s speaker. So please join me in
welcoming Dr. Morton O’Kelly. (audience clapping) – Thank you, Ellen, and welcome everybody. On behalf of Arts and
Sciences, it’s my pleasure to welcome you today
to this terrific event. As Ellen mentioned, I’m
the new divisional dean for social and behavioral sciences. And just a few months on the job here, this is my first time to
come to these great events and it’s really fantastic
to see the terrific program that’s been put together,
so thank you and welcome. Science Sundays is a popular program. And it is designed to provide a wide range of current and emerging
topics of public interest. And, as you can see from the
brochure, a terrific range of excellent speakers are
planned through the new year. And so these are very timely. And as you’ll see today,
very exciting ventures into topics of public concern, as you will see, of an intellectual nature that touches on sciences
and comes, in some cases, from the social and behavioral sciences. After the talk today, just
to get ahead of ourselves, please join us after
the talk for a reception in the Ohio State room on the next floor. So that’ll be great after
we have Mike’s talk. So the talk today, to
get down to the business, is the talk called
Politics with the People. And with is italicized. So Mike will explain his concerns and will engage us with that topic. Our speaker is Professor Mike Neblo, who is a professor of political science. And interestingly, he also
has appointments in philosophy and in public policy, and is
director of one of our centers. The center is called IDEA. It’s got a nice acronym,
the acronym stands for Institute for Democratic
Engagement and Accountability, a terrifically timely topic. And as you’ll see,
something of great interest to us these days. Just a brief word about Mike’s background. He has a PhD from the
University of Chicago. He spent time as a
visiting professor at Yale. He joined us at OSU in
2003, and has had funding from several major foundations, including Robert Wood Johnson
and Kettering Foundation. He’s a prolific scholar,
he’s written two books and over 30 articles,
and has a large number of papers under writing
and under construction, the pipeline is very full, as we say. His second book is titled
“Politics with the People” and there are little
brochures on the desk outside, please pick one of those up if you’d like. It has a discount coupon as well, if you would care to pick one up. But I think this is a book
about representative democracy, again, something that will
find out more about today. Just published, and
it’s an impressive book. He’s also had an impressive
record of funding from external sources and is
sought after as a speaker. He tells me that he will be soon a keynote speaker at Marquette University. And while I’m only a dean introducing him, the president will
introduce him at Marquette so he’s really going for the
big time there at Marquette. Just I thought I’d
finish with one fun fact, and probably nobody in the room
except Mike and I know this, but we are both Irish
citizens, I by birth, and him through heritage
and through family. And we were just comparing notes, we have a wide range of
connections in Ireland to this day. And I welcome Mike to the podium, and we thank him for his speech. Thank you.
(audience clapping) – Well, thank you, Ellen and Morton. And to all of you
especially for coming today. I’m really excited, this is
the first time I’ve done, you know, a general science lecture. And I’m very, very excited to
be speaking with you today. And even more so to hear your
questions when this is over. And if you’re able to
stay for the reception, to talk to you there. So let me just start
off, does anybody have, especially students in the audience, does anybody know what
this is a picture of? The Capitol Building under construction. More particularly, it’s a historically sort of valuable photo. It’s President Lincoln’s
first inauguration. It was the first inauguration
that people of color where ever invited to. And the subtitle of my book is called “Building a Directly
Representative Democracy.” So we thought that it was a nice metaphor with the building of
the Capitol dome there. Also, “Politics with the People,” you know, in his inaugural
speech President Lincoln talked about the better
angels of our nature and preserving the union. And eventually that dovetailed into his famous sort of honor to democracy as government of, by, and for the people. Now, even in President Lincoln’s time, the “of” and the “by” had to be understood in terms of representative democracy. And we’ve talked about
and tried to develop the idea of politics with the people, in that we can’t all quit our day jobs and directly run the government,
but at the same time, it’s important to have
robust input from the public. So that’s where “Politics
with the People” comes from. Building a directly
representative democracy, if it sounds slightly
paradoxical, it’s supposed to. We usually think of direct
democracy as referenda, initiatives, recalls,
things along those lines, where the people are directly empowered. Or representative democracy,
where elected officials really do the bulk of the work. And we only show up every
two, four or six years, if we bother to show up,
and check a box on a ballot. And the idea of directly
representative democracy, as I’ll develop it here is
to try square that circle and really have it both ways. Okay, so I’m not gonna launch
right into the science. We will get to the science,
it’s Science Sundays, and I promise that, but I’m going to start with a little bit of family background. My grandfathers had six years
of schooling between them, and that includes one of them
going through the sixth grade. (audience laughing) My grandpa Steve, Stefano
Napolillo, on the left here, immigrated from authoritarian Italy, never had a day of schooling in his life, and signed his name with an
X, which is why I have a name that only vaguely sounds like his. “Neblo” was what the immigration officer at Ellis Island heard and
wrote down after the X. Now, a couple of days
ago, my daughter Anna, on the right here, finished up her first month of seventh grade. It was just this past Friday. She now has more formal education than her four great grandfathers combined. Not focused just on the men here, it turns out that the female
descendants of my family actually had more education,
so if I included them this wouldn’t work so well.
(audience laughing) When she finishes high
school, she will have knowledge and skills far beyond them. And college and anything after
will only widen the gulf. Yet when Anna turns 18,
she’ll get one vote. Just like my grandfather
Stefano got when he, a few years after coming to this country, very poor, illiterate, and
unaccustomed to the rights and responsibilities of
democratic citizenship. Now, I’m starting with
this little anecdote about family history because democracy is rooted in the assumption,
and it’s hardly obvious when you really think about it, that such radical equality
is sensible and just. I think we are trained to believe that it’s sensible and just. And ultimately, I think it’s very good that we think it’s sensible and just. But for the time being I wanna problematize that a little bit. When we say equality, what do we mean? Just counting heads? Well, that’s exactly what thinkers from Plato down to our own day, there was a important book
published just recently, no joke, called “Against Democracy.” That’s exactly what what
critics of democracy have always claimed is
wrong with democracy. So I’m not sure how well you can see this. But this is the funeral
monument for Samuel J. Tilden. Does anybody happen, is this
is pretty inside baseball, anybody happen to know
who Samuel Tilden is? Okay, he was a reformist
Governor of New York, and is distinguished as being the only presidential candidate to win an outright majority
of the popular vote and lose the presidency. He lost to Rutherford B. Hayes. Other presidents, other
candidates have won pluralities and gone on to lose, but he’s the only one who won an outright majority
and lost the presidency. And on his tomb, I don’t
know if you can see it on the top there, he
insisted on having inscribed, “I still trust the people,” which I think is really interesting and kind of sweet. Now, you might be tempted
to think that’s just a swipe at the Electoral College which
denied him the presidency, and that he really is just
talking about counting heads. But actually the most
famous quote that Tilden is remembered for, is saying that, “Majority rule, just as majority rule, “is as foolish as its critics complain. “But it’s never merely majority rule. “The means by which the
majority becomes the majority “is the more important thing.” So in addition to equality, I
wanna add a second criterion for a good, healthy, functioning
representative democracy, and in my scholarly work, I refer to that as deliberative democracy or deliberation or deliberative accountability. So what do we mean here by deliberation? Ellen, what? What brand of toothpaste do you use? – Crest.
– Crest? Crest is awful, none of
you should use crust. (audience laughing)
You should all use Colgate. Okay, oh, I see, some people
don’t like Colgate, right? Well, if I said that in earnest,
I’m not saying in earnest. If I said that in earnest,
Ellen might very rightly say, “Shut up, leave me alone, I like Crest!” Right? “I don’t want Colgate.” And that’s fine. But if you’re gonna use your votes, or your ability to give
money to candidates, or talking to elected officials,
your power as a citizen, to either send my sons and daughters or some of the students in
the audience off to war, or tell them who they can love and count as a member of their family, or take away their money via taxes and use it for other purposes,
under those conditions, I wanna submit to you
it’s not okay to say, “Shut up, leave me alone,
that’s what I want.” Deliberative democracy, in a nutshell, is the idea that if you’re
gonna use your power, your political power, and
our political decisions are gonna be enforced by people with guns, then it is not okay to say
“Shut up, leave me alone.” That you owe, we owe each other
explanations that go beyond, “Shut up, leave me alone,
that’s what I want.” Unlike toothpaste, where you could reasonably tell me to shut up. Okay, so now we’ve got two criteria. We’ve got radical equality, especially in the face of counting heads, and deliberation, or good reason-giving and accountability for
our exercise of power. Now, I wanna submit to you that, given those two criteria,
things aren’t going so well. We’ve got massive roles for
money in American politics, and all politics, but
especially in the US. The partisanship and
interest-group politics has descended into a pie-throwing contest. It’s a blood sport, more
like Michigan vs. Ohio State. We all know how that should turn out, but the point is, everybody thinks that that’s true of politics as well, and that we don’t have to give reasons, we just root for our team. Perhaps the best validated
observation in political science is that the average American
is stunningly ignorant. Not stupid, but ignorant
in the sense of not having much knowledge about politics. Knowledge that you might think, and I’m gonna problematize that, but that you might think is essential to discharging your duties
as a democratic citizen. And all of this, I think,
adds up to the notion that we might be on a
sinking ship of state, that things are pretty bad. Well, under those circumstances, and a lot of people believe this, it’s natural to think about
how we might reform things. And I wanna suggest that there are three main going
alternatives out there, what I’ll call the hands-on approach or plebiscitary democracy. Sometimes called direct democracy, but I’m gonna mean something
by different by direct in this talk, so I couldn’t use that. But the idea is initiatives,
referendums, recalls, giving people, putting power back into the hands of average people for political decision-making. The exact opposite of that I’m
calling hands-off democracy, or technocracy, where we
insulate the political process from politics and really
just try to have experts work it out like it’s
an engineering problem. And the third approach
called doubling-down or double-down, the double-down approach. In the literature, in the
political science literature, this is often referred to
as the pluralist approach. And the idea here is that what went wrong is not parties and interest groups, it’s that we weaken the
parties and interest groups through all kinds of reforms. And that what we should really do is go back to strong parties,
and empower interest groups, get rid of campaign finance regulations, to the extent that there
really are any anymore, and strengthen parties
and centralize them. Well, my coauthors and I think that there are some
big problems with that. In the hands-on approach, turns out in referenda and recall, in
California and other places, money is even more of a problem. You can’t get your voice out, you can’t get things on to the ballot, if it’s a major initiative,
unless you have a lot of money. It can also lead to incoherent policy because it’s done one issue at a time, whereas the legislature can think about a whole package of reform ideas. The hands-off approach is
that people feel cut out, it’s sometimes referred
to as democratic deficits. And also, there’s the idea that there are no such things as values experts. You can be an expert about
how this much of a tax cut is gonna lead to, you know, X tax cut is gonna lead to Y revenue change. But whether that’s a
good thing or a bad thing is not something that
economists are experts at, it’s you and I that are experts at that and need to have input into that process. And the problem with
the double-down approach is it turns politics into
the toothpaste example and gets rid of deliberation. Everybody just cuts their own deal and let the chips fall where they may. And in addition, I’ll
present some evidence that this radically turns
people off of politics. And not randomly, it’s not that it turns the same people off,
it turns the people off who are already disempowered
in our political system. So the idea is that these
going reform proposals all have some serious
problems associated with them. So our alternative we’re calling directly representative democracy. It’s direct, in contrast to
the double-down approach, is in that you’re
represented as a citizen, rather than as a member of a
party or an interest group. It’s representative versus hands-off, in that we can’t all quit our day jobs and become experts on politics, that there’s something to be said for people developing expertise and having it be their day
job to really figure out what good policy is going to look like. And it’s democratic
versus the technocratic or hands-off approach, in
that citizens will have a much more robust sort of
role in the political process than just showing up every
two, four, or six years, again, if you bother to show
up, and checking a ballot. So what might these
directly representative, directly representative and
democratic reforms look like? Well, one thing to think
about is town hall meetings. There’s the old New
England town hall meeting. But there’s also town hall meetings where elected officials meet
with their constituents, oftentimes in venues like this, and just have an open discussion. And people can come, they
can present their views. You have average people standing up and sort of representing themselves. And it’s not all flooded
with money and elites and all these other
sorts of things, right? Well, this is a picture by Norman Rockwell from the great “Four Freedoms” series. And I love it, and think
there’s just something to it. But Norman Rockwell wasn’t
known for his depictions of the gritty underbelly
of American civic life. And actually, a lot of people say, when I talk about town
halls, they say “Town halls? “You gotta be kidding me, town halls!” Right? That the people who show
up, just to give you a sense of what these pictures look like. So the Norman Rockwell one,
of course, is fictional. It’s not a real person. Although if you look closely, the guy in the central panel looks like he might be kind of the angry grandson of the genial citizen on the left. I don’t know if you can
see, but he’s holding a gun in his hip holster,
his thigh holster here, and is holding a sign saying, “It’s time to water the tree of liberty,” which is a famous quote
from Thomas Jefferson, that finishes “with the blood
of tyrants and patriots.” Now, that’s happening outside of President Obama’s town hall meeting. And it’s not real hard
to figure out whose blood he thought the tree of liberty might be in need of
getting nourishment from. And in addition, if you’ve
sort of watched the news or go on YouTube, average town halls, even those not involving the president, just regular members of Congress, often, maybe even typically, just collapse into shouting matches, and ugly scenes that don’t look much like deliberative accountability, at least I would submit to you. And the reason it doesn’t
is that the people who typically show up are
wildly unrepresentative of the average citizen. Which is not to say, if
you are regular attendees, that there’s anything wrong with you, bless your heart, keep doing it, we need such citizen
engagement, it’s a great thing. But I think that the people who show up to Science Sunday’s talks
aren’t representative of the larger population, either. And we need a broader, more
equal form of engagement. The people who typically show up are either the member of
Congress’ strongest supporters or their most implacable angry foes. And under those circumstances, you’re not gonna get a lot of persuasion ’cause you don’t have to
persuade the first group and you can’t persuade the second group. And so members of Congress don’t even try. They try to basically run infomercials and highly, highly managed
sorts of events if they can. And we had interviews with 100 staffers where they told us over
and over and over again. Okay, so now finally, after a long line up, here’s the science or the beginnings of the
science side of things. Part of what we asked
ourselves is, can we do better? And in particular, can we design features of town hall interactions
in experimental settings, so that we have rigorous
scientific evidence of how they differ from
standard town hall settings and whether they make
differences between constituents? So we recruited, this
is kind of summarizing a lot of research, I
can get into the details if people are interested. But we recruited roughly 2000
randomly-invited constituents randomly invited here is crucial, because then you’re not just getting the people who always show up, who either love their
member or who are angry. We did two kinds of sessions, some with members of the
House of Representatives, a larger one with a senator,
Carl Levin from Michigan. We conducted these town halls online, we built a technology platform that allowed us to do it online. And the online element of it is related to who shows up, right? Because if you’re a single mom, you oftentimes can’t afford
to hire a babysitter, drive 40 minutes each way,
and the time at the town hall. All you got to do here
is maybe put a video on or ask their neighbor to let your kids come over for a playdate. And it turns out that we get a very, very different mix of people,
which I’ll talk about. Town halls lasted about an hour. A third crucial element here is that they were moderated
by the research team. Me really, in one case,
or in the front-end case. And that’s crucial from the point of view of trust of the constituents, that it wasn’t an infomercial, that this wasn’t a rigged event. And it turns out, over and
over and over constituents said that they loved that. And they actually gave
the members of Congress more credit for it, standing in there and
taking tough questions, than they did getting a
polished sort of show, which everybody just dismissed as a farce. These folks focused on a single issue, so you couldn’t get away with sound bites. This was an hour on one issue. We did about 20 sessions
on immigration reform and one on terrorism
policy, detainees, torture, rendition, Guantanamo Bay,
things along those lines. I’ll submit to you the terrorism policy and immigration are not softball issues. We were dealing with real
pressing matters of public policy, and didn’t cherry pick easy ones. Okay, from the scientific standpoint, this was an experiment,
a field experiment, but an experiment nonetheless. We had a treatment condition where the people got to deliberate with, and they were randomly assigned into this, where they got to deliberate
with their member of Congress and got background
information on the issue that had been vetted, mostly came from Congressional Budget
research, excuse me, Congressional Research Service or Congressional Budget Office reports, and that all of the offices
involved signed off on as being a good representation
of the factual issue base behind the policy before them. We had a control group
that just took surveys. And then we had what we
call a partial control group who got the information but
didn’t get to deliberate. And the idea here is to
respond to critics who say, “This isn’t really about participating, “it’s just about information. “Give people good quality information, “they’ll make good decisions.” We show that that’s not true. So we did five surveys,
there was a baseline survey, everybody got it. About a week or two after they got their information materials, if you were in those conditions, and got a survey after that. The session itself, if
you were in the treatment, survey after that. Then everybody got one a week after. And then everybody got
one four months later, after the November midterm elections. And that’s crucial, because
in political science, especially in political psychology, what are called treatment effects, or the scientific effects associated with the treatment that you’re giving, the stimulus, situation that
you’re putting people in, typically, if you can get
them to last four hours, you’re doing well, four
months is enormous. Okay, I only have one
equation in the whole talk, but it’s Science Sunday so I was told that I could include an equation. So you might be wondering, oh, well, it’s really just the people who show up. This is self selection, the
people who are gonna participate in this are open-minded people
who are gonna be level-headed and wanna talk to their
members of Congress. Well, we built a tailored
statistical model that we published in a good-quality
political methodology journal. I won’t go over this, but the basic idea is to subtract out the
people who were treated and the people who weren’t, but conditioned on their
propensity to do what they’re told, to cooperate, and comply
with the treatment. And we built in lots of stages,
like finishing your survey, reading your background materials, doing other sorts of things, to test for people’s propensity to comply, and we corrected for that. So we claim, if you buy
our statistical model, all of the things that
I’m gonna be presenting are just simple percentage changes. But we claim that those are
actually causal changes, that those aren’t just driven by the people who happen to show up. Okay, these are the members
of Congress who participated in the study, I won’t dwell on it. Again, this is a field experiment. It turns out, you can’t
compel members of Congress to be randomized into
your field experiment. (audience laughing)
So we had to check on that. But we couldn’t, and so we don’t claim that this is a random sample
of members of Congress. But it actually looks quite
a bit like the Congress, if you buy the numbers that
we’re working with here. We were spread all over the country. We had changes in tenure,
we had leadership. We had women, we had an
African-American member. We had people that voted against
their party on the issues. And we checked every way
till Science Sunday to see whether there was something
special about these people. You might say, “well, it’s at least “that they’re gonna be good at it.” Well, actually, we had two different cases where the Chief of Staff
said, “No, I’m doing this “’cause my boss is awful
at this technology stuff, “and they need to learn how to do it.” So okay, I’m gonna give
you a little bit of a taste for what one of the
sessions would look like. The original, this is an old one. This is one of the first rounds
that we did back in 2006. So the technology doesn’t
look all that spiffy compared to what we can do now,
but it’ll give you a flavor. This was a town hall on immigration with Congressman George Radanovich a moderate Republican from California. Oh. Ah, I was supposed to talk
that through while it. There we go. Okay. Oh, no. There we go. So we had a welcome screen, the constituents were mostly mediated. – [Announcer] I’d like to thank everybody for coming to this discussion.
– But you could hear the member’s voice, this
is the introduction. – [Announcer] Discussion with the honorable George Radanovich. And without further ado, I’m going to introduce the Congressman, who’s going to make a few opening remarks. – [George] Well, good
morning and thank you. My name is George Radanovich, I represent the 19th district in Congress
here from California. – [Announcer] So Terry asks, “What bill are you supporting, and why?” – [George] Well, Terry, right
now (coughs), excuse me. The House voted on a version in December that I voted no, against. It was strictly on border
enforcement, and didn’t deal, I think, with some of
the more important issues that need to be dealt with as well. [Announcer] Is from Terri, she asks, “Why do we spend so much
on illegal immigrants when we have poverty-stricken residents who would love to work but
cannot find employment? – [George] Well, because United States is a kind and gentle nation. I mean that we are not
gonna allow anybody, whether they’re a citizen
not, to starve on the street. It’s just not what we are as Americans. – Now, maybe that, I
don’t know your politics, and I don’t need to know it. But I’ll just point out that was a Republican member of Congress,
talking about immigration, arguing back against a constituent, arguing back against the constituent who was pressing him on treating on his treatment of
undocumented immigrants. And we saw, over and over and
over, attempts to persuade. This was not just sound bites. This wasn’t just trying
to wiggle out of problems. It was very, very substantive. Okay, but now I have to
prove that that’s true. So I’ll lay out what we
take to be our criteria for success in these sessions. First one is inclusive participation. We don’t wanna just have
only the usual suspects, surely, the usual suspects
should participate as well, but we wanna have more people. Informed engagement,
it’s gotta be proceeding on the basis of good-quality,
factual information. Reasoned persuasion, and
there’s two parts of that, the reasoned and the persuasion part, and I’ll talk about both. It’s gotta be worthwhile for constituents or they’re not gonna keep showing up. And it’s gotta be worthwhile
for elected officials or they’re not gonna keep showing up. So order for this to affect public policy, it’s gotta meet all these conditions. And in addition, it’s gotta work at scale, if it’s really going to move
the supertanker a little bit. So let’s go through these criteria. First one, inclusive participation. First of all, people told
us this was a fool’s game, that we were getting into
something that was just gonna collapse, that nobody
was gonna wanna do this. Turns out we had huge, yes
rates on participation. Many, many, many people, about 87%, said that they wanted to participate. And this is perhaps my favorite
thing in the whole book. Now, the people who
showed up in our sessions, far from being the usual suspects, were more representative of
eligible voters than voters. Right? So the people who show up to vote aren’t representative of
everybody who can vote. Our participants were more
representative of people who can vote than the
people who actually vote. And we asked them why. And they told us that they
thought standard politics was a mug’s game, that it was irrational, that it was just a blood sport, and they wanted nothing to do with it. But when their member
called them up and said, “No, really, I wanna hear
what you have to say. “How does Tuesday at eight work?” They said, “Oh, OK, yeah, that
sounds great, I’ll show up.” Informed engagement,
there was a causal effect of about a 20% increase
in issue knowledge. And, four months later.
general political knowledge. Again, controlling for who was showing up. Four months later, the
participants were more likely to know who controlled
each chamber of Congress and a few other basic political facts. Again, I wanna emphasize, in
these kinds of experiments, those are very big effects
lasting a very long time. And it’s because people, all of a sudden, started engaging in politics more outside of the context of the experiment, the experiment lit them a
little small fire under them and got them more involved. This wasn’t all just the
background materials, the information-only condition saw less than a half of that gain. And it wasn’t just the people,
the rich getting richer. Both Stefano, my grandfather
who was illiterate, well, couldn’t actually be
illiterate and be in the study, but who was less educated
and less sophisticated, and my daughter Anna, who presumably will, there was a plenary effect, that everybody’s boat got lifted. Okay, reasoned persuasion,
here I’m gonna focus on the persuasion part. Again, causal effects. The constituents who
participated were 14% more likely to agree with their member of Congress on the issue under consideration. In particular, various bills that were being promoted,
presented to the Congress. And there was a 9% move in the Senate, the larger Senate session. So there definitely was persuasion, but it’s an open question as to whether it was reasoned persuasion. So this is the toughest thing,
and it’s mostly in the book, but I’ll just go over quickly. The toughest thing to
prove is the reasoned part, since it’s controversial
what reason means, but I’ll just give you a
taste for a few things. First of all, we just
published the transcripts, and you can read it and it’s all attempts at persuasion on the merits. So facially, it looks like persuasion. It wasn’t, we tested for
just partisan sorting. Was this just people getting their signals straight and listening? If they were Democrats listening to their Democratic members and moving? Or Republicans vice versa? No. It was across-the-board persuasion. Screened questions. Our protocol required that if a question was abusive, vulgar, or something else, we had to filter it out. 2000, over 2000 questions
and comments submitted. Anybody wanna guess how
many we had to filter out? These are anonymous online
questions and comments. Zero, zero, not one. Now, if you read the comments sections on newspapers or blogs, (laughs) or participate in any other sort of online activity for that matter, I suspect you will be very
surprised, as we were. We were genuinely surprised by this. But this is the power of random selection, the vast majority of the country aren’t angry and getting their pitchforks to go run after their member of Congress. And if you get a random sample of them, you get a handful of people who are maybe a little bit more intense, but the norms of the environment
taps that down as well. We also use an academic scale called the Discourse Quality Index. Can’t go into the details
on that, but if you think oh, the members of Congress
are gonna dumb it down, their discourse quality scores
were higher in these events than their floor speeches in Congress. Right, not dumbing it down,
actually ramping it up. And it turns out, we
asked about rationales for the various policies and we measured the
gains in issue knowledge. And it was people who gained knowledge that were more likely
to change their position and change it in a way that’s congruent with the rationales that they articulated as being important in what they’re doing. So hopefully that just gives you at least a taste of the
evidence that we try to present that this is reasoned
persuasion, not just persuasion, it’s not just manipulation. Okay, worthwhile for constituents. Constituents had a 25% bump in their sense of political efficacy, their notion that they
weren’t just caveman, cave men and women, they could understand
politics, engage and want to, and that people outside in politics were gonna listen to
them, and that they could make a difference in
the political process. A whopping 95% said that it was
very valuable for democracy. 97% said that they’d like to do another. Again, if you do public opinion research, you can’t get agreement at that level that, like, sexually-transmitted
diseases are bad. People, you know, rate terrible
things higher than this. We went through the qualitative comments, and they were six to one, positive. So for every negative comment
about the member of Congress or the process, there
were six positive ones. Okay, worthwhile for
the members of Congress. They also, we surveyed them afterwards which was really pretty fun, and those were extremely
positive comments as well. Though, you might reasonably say that no member of Congress is gonna say, “Oh, yeah, I just spent an
hour with my constituents, “and it was a total waste of time.” (audience laughing) But nonetheless, I will mention that they were extremely
positive comments. In addition, the people who
participated were more likely, we developed this battery of items from a very famous and
eminent political scientist named Richard Fenno, we
call them the Fenno items. And they’re the things he
claims the members of Congress want constituents to think about them, that they understand people like me, that they’re knowledgeable, hardworking, trustworthy, all of those things. And on average, there was a 14% bump on all of these attributions. You were 12% more likely
to trust your member, 12% more likely to approve of him or her on the issue under discussion. 8% more likely to approve
of him or her generally. And then here’s the coup de gras. Four months later, 10% more
likely to vote for them. Again, I interviewed some
members of Congress afterwards who didn’t participate in this. And when you tell them that, they lean forward and
their eyes get open wide. And it turns out, even the
ones who were very, very safe, they wanna win going away. A 10% bump is huge. They’re very, very interested in this. Okay, scale, scaling up and out. First of all, we replicated this in good scientific fashion to make sure it wasn’t something
strange about immigration. Tried a different issue
and it was the same across the different issues. We also tried to make it much larger, seven times larger, a little bit more. And pretty much the same pattern of outcomes across the board. Now you might think, oh, but still, this is just retail politics,
it can’t affect the system. We estimate that if
every member of Congress spent two hours a week, did
two sessions every week, in the term of a senator, in six years, they could reach a quarter
of the American electorate. And with the size of the effects that I’ve been describing here, reaching that many people
can really move the ship. Also, I’ll mention that there were what economists call multiplier effects. That for every person who participated, they went out and talked to
another one and a half people, basically, and tried to convince them about the issue at hand
or about the member that they interacted with, overwhelming in this case, positively. So there were probably
secondary and tertiary effects that we’re not even controlling for here. Okay, so what’s next? Well, the first thing I’ll point out is that for the most part,
I’ve been giving you evidence about the effects that the members had on their constituents. We do have some evidence in the book about how the constituents
affected the members, how the members used this
deliberative information, this high-quality feedback
from their constituents. But that’s a fairly thin part of the first round of the study. And of course, at least according to deliberative democratic
theory that I subscribe to, this is supposed to be a two-way street. We don’t want it just to be a place to influence constituents. We also wanna do paired consultation with Republicans and Democrats. We’ve got our first pair
signed up to do that. So that it’s not just
an attempt for elites to lead opinion and
influence constituents. And also to involve challengers so that it’s not just
an incumbency advantage, sort of process, but that’s
what we’re looking at. Okay, so now you might be asking, “Is this really the time, though?” We’ve gotten this question a lot. Any of the students in
the audience recognize, I imagine a lot of people
recognize who this is, anybody recognize who it
is and where where he is? Yes?
– Birmingham Jail. – Birmingham Jail. It’s Martin Luther King
in the Birmingham Jail. – [Audience Member] I
was just about to say Martin Luther King Jr. – Yes, Martin Luther King
Jr., and he’s sitting in jail. That’s his mug shot. And then a picture of him. I don’t know how he was allowed to be photographed in the jail. But this is how Dr. King. Yeah, it’s a good question. This is how Dr. King
began that famous letter. “While confined here in
the Birmingham City Jail. “I came across your
recent statement calling “my present activities,
quote, ‘unwise and untimely.'” Now, Dr. King was replying
to moderate white ministers who rebuked him for
abandoning deliberation in favor of disruption. Dr. King explained the
next ordinary injustices justified extraordinary politics. Many people today, from the
Tea Party to Indivisible fervently believe that we live in similarly extraordinary times, and call again for extraordinary politics. People of very different
political stripes, therefore, might worry that focusing on civil and substantive discourse is similarly “unwise and untimely.” We’ve gotten this criticism
quite a bit really. “Now is not the moment to emphasize “dialogue and deliberation,”
they would say. At best, we’re being naive, rearranging deckchairs on a sinking ship, and at worst, we are abetting
a fundamentally broken system. But Dr. King argued
that that just protests must aim to restore deliberative politics on terms that are more just and inclusive, quote, “You may well
ask, ‘why direct action?’ “‘Why sit-ins, marches?’ and so forth, “‘Isn’t negotiation a better path?’ “You are quite right and
calling for negotiation. “Indeed, this is the very
purpose of direct action. “Too long have we been bogged
down in a tragic effort “to live in monologue
rather than dialogue.” Close quote. The letter itself is a
form of deliberation, I would argue, which
combined with disruption, his direct action, work
to deepen democracy. Like Samuel Tilden, Dr. King
ultimately trusted the people when they were called
to their best, as do I. You must judge for yourselves which of today’s rallying cries
warrant extraordinary politics. On my account, reforming
our political discourse remains vital, whatever you decide. So to those who worry that
such reforms are untimely, then it is worth recalling
Dr. King’s admonition that in politics, “‘Wait’ has
almost always meant ‘never.’ “Our republic can scarcely
afford further delay.” So that’s it. In closing, I wanna thank
Amanda, Ellen, John, and Marty for inviting me and organize this, especially to all of you
for your time and attention. And, in advance, for your questions. I think I’ve left a little
extra time, I’m a little under so we should have plenty
of time for discussion. Thank you.
(audience clapping) – I wonder if we could have, I wonder if we could have
a microphone for the. Tech guys in back, can
we have a microphone for people who have questions? – If not, I can repeat
questions, if they don’t come– – We may have to do it that way. – Yeah, okay, so I open
it up to the floor. – Yes.
– Hi, my understanding is that
your research is continuing. But as you’ve moved and had
representatives participate, have any of them continued to use the same process afterwards? Or has this been more of a
one-and-done sort of process where you see great results,
but they don’t have the will or something to continue to
do it themselves after you have concluded the research? – Great question, really
important question ’cause as we’re gonna scale up. Can people hear me? I’ll just carry this. So the question, for those of you who might not have heard it
is have the elected officials we worked with continued
to work with this? Or was it a one and done? And that’s a crucial question,
because we want this not, we wanna do good quality
research, this is Science Sundays, I’m proud of the scientific quality of the work that I’m doing,
but the real passion behind it is to try to make representative
government better, by standards that I think
a lot of people can agree would look like better, what
better would mean there. So the answer is yes. But not nearly as much as we would hope. And that was the subject
of some follow-up research to say “Why? “You said you love this, we showed you “that this was really working well.” And that’s heavily informing our second, or our new round of research. Their answers, I should say, are heavily informing our
new round of research. And the rationale that we
got is that we’re drowning, that in, and just as a bit of background since 1994, real dollar resources to a Congressional office
have fallen by about a third. Turnover in offices is spectacularly high. And chiefs of staff, so
this is a chief of staff in the Senate. So these are people at the
top of their profession, make $87,000 a year,
which is not a bad living. But if you’ve spent 25
years and you’re at the top of your profession and
trying to raise a family in Washington, DC, that’s
not a lot of money. These people, they work 60 hours a week. So our new motto is time
neutral or time subsidizing. That everything we present to them, we say “You don’t have to do
anything, it’s off the shelf, “we’re gonna show up and
make it easy for you.” And so I didn’t show the slide,
but we’ve got another group of 24 members who are
interested on those conditions. And we’ve got funding requests in from some large granting agencies, the brass ring would be to set up a small office in Washington, DC. Maybe two or three people
where they would just, their job would be to run
to the hill and make this time neutral or time
subsidizing to the offices. Does that make sense?
– Yes, it does. – Okay, any other questions? – [Event Organizer] Hey, Mike,
we have a microphone now. – Oh, great. – [Event Organizer] Go
ahead and pick somebody, we can bring the mic.
– Yeah, sure. Raise your hand. Here. (woman speaks faintly) – [Physicist] Okay, so
just as a physicist, I wanted to thank you for
putting on the equation. – Thank you. (chuckles) – [Physicist] I was curious
about that as you were talking. – Good, good.
– I was saying maybe I should use the policy for that input My question is, for the efficacy of this kind of thing, do you need to encourage the representatives to continue to take random samples so that don’t end up with the same people going over and over again?
– Mm-hm. – [Physicist] And
basically referencing this, in terms of how you have ultimate balance in the conversations going on?
– Absolutely, yeah. And it turns out, so
now, we don’t necessarily have to have randomized samples
in the scientific sense. For this study, for the proof of concept, we used full blown probability sampling, for people who are
interested in the details, I can talk about that. But we used very high quality,
same high-quality samples that people would use for
public opinion polls, right? We don’t think that you have to go to that level of quality,
because it’s very expensive, and the real key is just making sure you’re not only getting
the usual suspects, that you’re reaching out
broadly into your constituency. And in the new round
that we’re working with, we’re still working
with a polling company. But it’s a, it’s not MTurk, but it’s a very low-cost
way of doing this, such that we think we could sustain it, even if it were to move to scale. But the basic answer is
yes, you don’t wanna revert, we have reason to think that
a lot of the nice things that we saw, were partly or importantly, a result of getting
high-quality random samples or broadly random samples. Another thing that I would
mention on the science side, is when I said, when I
showed you those five things that we varied, you might be saying, “That’s not how you do science, “you vary one thing at a time, not five.” And some of the, partly
what we did is we put all of what we thought were the
crucial constituents in place. And in some of our experiments,
we’re now working back from that to see what the
real active ingredients are, what the minimal set of those conditions would look like in order
to be able to achieve the quality outcomes that we see. Yes, over here. – [Audience Member]
Okay, it’s understanding that senators and representatives
spend approximately 80% of their time fundraising. – Yeah. – [Audience Member] Do
you have evidence that this could compete? Thanks very much. – Sure. Okay, yes? Oh, okay, I’ll repeat it. So the question was,
there’s a lot of evidence, I don’t know if it’s 80%, there’s different estimates out there. But let’s take it a stipulated
that members of Congress spend an enormous amount of
their time raising money, that it’s a very large
fraction of what they do, it might even overshadow their legislative and representational
activities more generally. And so the question is, can
what we’re doing compete? Right, okay, great question. And I think that there’s
actually two questions embedded in that, or I’ll try
to draw out on two of them. So 10% bumps in voting
rates four months later are gigantic effect,
relative to being able to buy one more ad. And I really have, honestly
had members of Congress lean forward and have their eyes pop out when we suggest this. Now, I’d further add that they spend more than two hours a week, doing standard constituent
outreach practices, the ones, a lot of them have stopped doing in-person town halls, but the ones that still
do in-person town halls, those are much more time consuming. You have to get there and back, you have to arrange the venue, all you need is a phone to do ours. And so this links back to
one of the first questions about being time neutral
or time subsidizing. And so yes, we do have
reason to think that this can stand up to, narrowly,
to their fundraising demands. I think there’s a bigger question that’s kind of there in yours, which is, you know, big,
powerful, moneyed interests don’t like it when they
lose relative power. And how are they going to adapt? If this were to, right now,
you know, we’re small stuff. You know, we’re not really
moving the supertanker. But if this were really to scale up, would powerful interests
attempt to sabotage it? And I think the answer
is almost certainly yes. And so we’re working on
ways of dealing with that. One is a certification
program, where the institute IDEA, the Institute for
Democratic Engagement and Accountability would
certify certain sort of events as meeting directly
representative criteria. Rather than just you go off
and you do your own version of this, but you rig the
background materials, you pack the people with your supporters, you don’t have a third party moderator, we think we’ve got pretty good evidence to suggest that that actually backfires. The constituents hate it when they think they’re being sold a bill of goods, and are wasting their
time on an infomercial. But staffers are very, very risk averse about this sort of stuff. And so almost certainly there would be morphs of these sorts of events that kind of looked like them, but weren’t really doing
the normative work. And we’re working very hard on trying to think through ways to counter adapt. Yes, here, right here. – [Audience Member] What
about permanentness? I wonder about a number of
things from directional purposes. How much of their time is spent, not making money but
trying to get reelected? And the answer in that case,
although it’s not, was 100%. (Micheal chuckles) And that speaks a wealth for
representative government, but, but it’s also a great waste of time that they’re spending
that much time doing that, as opposed to thinking about the politics. So to that, I would like your reaction. – Great question. Our whole approach, in
addition to time subsidizing or time neutral, is that you
can do well by doing right, that by this method,
you’re actually working on substantive problems
and getting reelected at the same time. Right. So I’m gonna set the
term limits part aside, I think that’s a very important question. But a very complicated
one, especially in light of the staff turnover
that I was talking about. Congressional turnover is a problem too, they actually learn something as they spend time in their work, and so I’m personally
ambivalent about term limits. But I am focused on what I think you see as the root question,
which is a separation between legislative and
representational activities, and fundraising and sort of
raw reelection motivations. We’re trying to we’re not
saying eat your spinach. We’re saying you can have
your cake and eat the too. Ma’am, I think you were. – [Audience Member] So I think my question is related to the previous one. – Sure.
– Which is, I noticed that one of the names
on the list was my one. Who famously just–
– Lost, yeah, yeah. – [Audience Member] And not
all of that 10% increase in voting transfers on the polling day. – No, that 10% was net for the candidate. Yes, for the, I’m sorry. So there was about a
similar, a little bit less, 8% increase in your likelihood of voting. But it was a net 10% increase in voting for that member of Congress. – [Audience Member] Okay,
so I guess your answering my question, at least
part, because somebody might have little and
maybe that comparison might help a little but the
information that you’ve got in not sufficient to get
into whatever the direction that his constituency as a whole took. – Good, yeah, yeah, no, I
think that makes good sense. Let me reframe your
question just a little bit. Because, look, he did
two sessions with us, most of them did two sessions with us. And, you know, the
numbers were small enough that many years later,
that’s not, you know, going to fend off a primary challenge. But I do think that there
is what you’re saying is a problem for what we’re talking about in that primaries tend to be the people who showed up at normal town halls. And they’re the most
intense, most partisan, and most ideologically polarized people, which isn’t saying a
bad, it’s not bad at all. But they’re different in that they’re not the center
of the constituency. And to the extent that people are worrying about being primaried from the right or the left, depending on their
party, that poses a problem because our results are
actually across the board, but especially powerful
for centrist constituents, constituents who don’t already
have a dog in the fight. And that’s something
that we’re working on, and want to do these, so we talked about paired Republican Democrat, but there could also be challengers. And we can talk more about that. But I wanna get in one
or two more questions if we have time. Are they any? Yeah. – [Audience Member] Just
could this somehow flow out, if you’re doing this again,
for primaries for parties? – Ah, right, so the question
was, are we considering doing this for primaries? Yes. Right now, we’re focused
on really nailing the, the sort of active ingredients
that I was talking about, and still doing some of the basic science. And in order to do that,
as you might expect the members of Congress
don’t love the idea of having to do it with their challengers. Doesn’t mean that we’re not gonna be able to get ’em to do that, we think, we have reason to think that we can. And ultimately, yes. But that’s not in, we
haven’t done it so far. And that’s not in the
next round of research. That’s the second round
of research forward. – [Audience Member] Are they published to the public, your results? – Yeah, they’re already published, yeah. Maybe over there. I don’t think I’ve gotten
anybody from the wings, I apologize if people from,
my eyesight’s not great so. – [Audience Member] So using this study so the influence on the politicians that are are in right now is good. And telling them what their
their actual main body of constituents wants is really good. But you’re not, do you
have the data on how many of these constituents
that are participating in this actually went on
to vote in the elections for these politicians,
because if they didn’t vote, and you’re still going
to the extreme model, both parties were wanting to vote in a more extreme candidate with Congress. – Sure, so what we use for just voting is what’s called Verified Vote, it turns out in most states, it’s a matter of public
record whether you voted. So we actually have hard factual evidence on whether they voted. And they were notably
considerably more likely to vote, about eight or 9% more likely to vote. The 10% net more likely to
vote for the member of Congress who did that with them is self reported, because that’s not a
matter of public record. But so there’s a little
bit of a worry, perhaps, but we don’t think that misreporting is likely to be huge
problem in that context. And I will say it tracks
very well, there wasn’t a lot of misreporting in
whether they voted or not. Yes. Is that the last one? Go ahead. – [Audience Member] Do
you believe your approach might also work for local politicians, like on the community level? ‘Cause it seems to me that
at the national level, it’s a more complex problems,
moral shepherding involved, And–
– All right. – [Audience Member] Questions
are a bit more abstract. And they’re not by the
people that are affected more in their lives, whereas
with urban politics, politicians outside the agenda that have neighborhood
quality right at the core. And, to add on, too, yesterday night, came to the councilmember
of south Seattle’s Riviera so you know, they’re up on that road, and yeah, I could tell that these people where headed towards
Wyoming Representatives, but these people were
interested in what was going on. – So I hope I said it
before, and let me add again, I don’t think the people
who are already showing up are bad citizens, I think
they’re great citizens. And I encourage that, the
goal is to bring more people into that process, and people
who haven’t participated before, and especially
so because the people who usually show up look different And are different, in many
respects, demographic respects, then the people who are less involved in the political process,
magnifying the voices of those who don’t show,
so this is a level up, not a push down, or
any criticism of people who are already participating. I really wanna say that empathically. So but to ask your direct question, answer your direct question
about the state and local level. I was really lucky and proud to be invited by the Glenn School in
their, I’m forgetting the proper name for it, but basically, it was a summer school for
state and local officials. It was a whole week of intensive
40 hours of class time, and I got five of that. And worked with state and local officials, presented on this, and they actually, I learned as much as they did. They were great about
helping me understand what is likely to port
out of what I’m doing into a state and local context and what would have to be adapted. But I can say, just qualitatively, they were very enthusiastic. They do think that it could. It could adapt to the
state and local level. Okay, I think that that’s time. (audience clapping) (grand music)

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