Understanding Deliberative Citizens: The Application of Q Methodology to Deliberation on Policy Issues
This article argues that deliberation provides a suitable method for understanding what the public ideally wants when it comes to decision making. Qmethodology provides the basis for an ideal approach for understanding what is happening during deliberation and for developing a deeper understanding of the choices being made. The approach reported in this article involves using Q sorting in conjunction with a survey of policy preferences, both administered before and after deliberation. The focus is a deliberative process conducted to decide the future of the ageing Fremantle Bridge, where the issue involved conflicting values. The Q analysis revealed three main positions (factors) in relation to the issue, each tending to correspond to different kinds of options for replacing the bridge. Overall, deliberation resulted in a move away from concern about the heritage value of the old bridge and toward a safety-oriented position. There was also a corresponding change in preference in favour of options that participants believed would improve safety. The approach provides information that is useful for policy making because it identifies the main reasons driving the formation of public opinion and the circumstances in which opinions change when the public is given the chance to fully reflect on the outcome.