The European Constitution and deliberation: the example of deliberative focus groups ahead of the French Referendum of 29 May 2005

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Series Details No 45, November 2005
Publication Date 29/11/2005
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On 21 May 2005, Notre Europe assembled a panel representing undecided citizens in the Paris region, a few days before the referendum on the Treaty establishing a European Constitution. This innovative debate, inspired by the Deliberative Polling technique invented in the United States, set out, against a background of strong media pressure, to “create the conditions of a genuine deliberation situation” and to “allow ‘ordinary’ citizens the opportunity to construct, develop or change their opinion in a more reasonable and autonomous fashion”.

This study highlights the partial achievement of these objectives: the methodology, inspired by that of Deliberative Polling, was able to cause the emergence of autonomous questioning and to reduce participant indecision, whilst being hampered by the inherent constraints of the exercise, in particular with respect to time. Analysis of the change in opinion of participants sheds light on the infectiousness of the “No” vote among persons undecided yet favourable to the European construction. It especially underlines a playing down of the negative impact of the rejection of the treaty, and even the beneficial effects imagined for the future of France and of Europe in adopting this position.

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