Fishkin's work focuses on deliberative democracy and democratic theory.
James S. Fishkin holds the Janet M. Peck Chair in International Communication at Stanford University where he is Professor of Communication, Professor of Political Science (by courtesy) and Director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy. His work focuses on deliberative democracy and democratic theory in books such as Democracy When the People Are Thinking (Oxford 2018), When the People Speak (Oxford 2009), Deliberation Day (Yale 2004 with Bruce Ackerman) and Democracy and Deliberation (Yale 1991). He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has also been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and a Visiting Fellow Commoner at Trinity College, Cambridge. Fishkin was educated at Yale and Cambridge. He holds both a Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Cambridge.
Fishkin first proposed Deliberative Polling® as a method of public consultation in 1988. It has since been applied in more than 28 countries around the world in more than 108 projects on all inhabited continents.
Deliberative Polling is designed to answer a simple but fundamental question: what would the people think under good conditions for thinking about it? It reaches the people through rigorously applied stratified random sampling. It engages them in this simple account of the “good conditions”—balanced and vetted briefing materials (written and/or video), small group discussions with trained moderators, questions to competing experts posed by the small groups, collection of opinions via confidential questionnaires before and after deliberation (so as to avoid the social pressures of groups trying to reach consensus). This approach has yielded fruitful results for policy-making around the world.