Bias Evaluation

We do all we can to minimize biases in the citizens jury process. That’s why we have jurors and third-party researchers evaluate our events, with an eye toward fairness and neutrality.

Summary of Bias Ratings of Citizens Jury Projects Conducted by the Jefferson Center

The following are the ratings given to projects in response to the question, “One of our aims is to have the staff and volunteers of the Jefferson Center conduct the project in an unbiased way. How satisfied are you with their performance in this regard?” (Slight variations in the question were used in some projects.) Five of the projects did not use the ratings: the first two projects, done in the 1970s; two conducted in Rochester, Minn., in the early 1990s; and a demonstration project on organ transplants in 1986.

To the best of our knowledge, no other organization in the world has kept as long and careful a record regarding staff neutrality in the citizen participation projects it conducted.

Project Very Satisfied Satisfied Neutral Dis­satisfied Very dis­satisfied
1981, “Peacemaking”

33%

67%

-0-

-0-

-0-

1984, Agriculture/Water Quality

40%

60%

-0-

-0-

-0-

1988, School-based Clinics

88%

12%

-0-

-0-

-0-

1989, St. Paul Mayoral Election

96%

4%

-0-

-0-

-0-

1990, Minnesota Governor’s Race

94%

6%

-0-

-0-

-0-

1991, Hennepin County Budget 1

55%

10%

30%

5%

-0-

1992, Pennsylvania Senate

82%

15%

3%

-0-

-0-

1993, Federal Budget 2

92%

4%

-0-

-0-

-0-

1993, Clinton Health Care Plan

83%

12%

-0-

4%

-0-

1994, At-risk Children, Conn. 3

75%

8%

8%

8%

-0-

1994, Welfare System, Rep. Penny

78%

22%

-0-

-0-

-0-

1994, Penn. Gubernatorial Election

88%

12%

-0-

-0-

-0-

1995, Traffic Congestion

46%

29%

12.5%

12.5%

-0-

1995, Hog Farming, Minn. 6

67%

8%

8%

-0-

-0-

1996, Minnesota State Budget 4

84%

4%

4%

-0-

-0-

1996, Comparing Environmental Risks

55%

45%

-0-

-0-

-0-

1997, Electricity Future, Minn.

81%

13%

6%

-0-

-0-

1997, K-12 Education, Minn.

67%

25%

8%

-0-

-0-

1997, Dakota County, Planning 5

71%

25%

4%

-0-

-0-

1998, School Bond, Orono, Minn.

88%

4%

4%

4%

-0-

1998, Assisted Suicide, Minn.

67%

33%

-0-

-0-

-0-

1999, Property Tax Reform, Minn.

22%

50%

11%

11%

-0-

1999, Chatfield School, Minn. 5

61%

28%

11%

-0-

-0-

2001, Citizens Initiative Review

71%

25%

4%

-0-

-0-

2001, Metro Solid Waste

83%

17%

-0-

-0-

-0-

2002, Global Climate Change

89%

11%

-0-

-0-

-0-

2005, Community Engagement, Australia

81%

19%

-0-

-0-

-0-

1 Project not run by Jefferson Center
2 One juror did not vote.
3 One juror did not vote because taken ill
4 Two jurors absent at end, due to medical emergency
5 One juror did not vote because of withdrawing from the project.
6 Two jurors did not vote, for reasons not recorded by the college students in charge of the project.

Note: The average “very satisfied” rating for all of the above projects was 70%. (This does not include the 1981 project, since the jurors in that project were not randomly selected from the public as a whole and minimal use was made of witnesses.) The average “very satisfied” for the four Citizens Jury projects that evaluated candidates on their stands on issues (1989, 1990, 1992, 1994) was 90%.

Conclusions

Why Low or High Ratings?

It is interesting to note the ratings given to different kinds of projects. (The following leaves out the 1981 project, which varied substantially from the usual Jefferson Center methods in terms of juror selection and presentation of information.) The “very satisfied” ratings given to the rest of the projects were as follows:

Type of project

Number of projects

Average “very satisfied”

Sponsored by government agency

8

58%

Citizens Jury on campus

5

71%

Sponsored by elected officials

4

79%

Demonstration projects

4

83%

Evaluating candidates on issues

4

90%

Even in the projects that received the worst ratings, a majority of the jurors were either “very satisfied” or “satisfied.” For example, the project with the lowest ratings, the 1999 property tax Citizens Jury, still had 72% of the jurors who were “very satisfied” or “satisfied,” with only 11% who were dissatisfied. Nevertheless, such a relatively low rating indicates that the project fell far short of the high standards we set for ourselves.