Voters from Both Parties Endorse New ‘Citizen Cabinet’ Method for Consulting Constituents

Most Believe Government Would Find More Common Ground if Public Has More Influence

Looking toward 2020, a major new study finds voters are seeking candidates who they believe will be more responsive to the people. Their dissatisfaction with elected officials in Washington, DC is fueled by the pervasive perception that they give a higher priority to special interests, partisan interests, and wealthy campaign donors.

Nine-in-ten endorse a new means—called a ‘Citizen Cabinet’—for officials to systematically consult their constituents on key decisions. Most say they would even cross party lines to vote for a candidate who would support having such a Citizen Cabinet.

The study was conducted over the last two years, with a series of five surveys administered to 16,525 registered voters, by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) at the University of Maryland, in conjunction with the nonpartisan organizations Voice of the People and Common Ground Solutions. The study was released today at an event at the Brookings Institution.

“In both 2016 and 2018 outsider candidates like Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez were buoyed by their claim that they would listen to the people over special interests and their parties,” said PPC Director Steven Kull. “Voters may well be looking for candidates with that message in the 2020 election as well.”

Eighty-eight percent say that members of Congress should be more responsive to the views of a majority of voters than they are. Asked about candidates in a recent election, voters were far more likely to vote for candidates they thought would be responsive to the people.

Historically high numbers (89 percent) say the government “is run for a few big interests” rather than “the benefit of all the people.” Nine-in-ten say that “members of Congress think mostly about their party, not about what is good for the country.”

Citizen Cabinet

Overwhelming majorities responded favorably to a new method for citizens to give input to members of Congress called a ‘Citizen Cabinet.’ The Citizen Cabinet is a large representative sample of constituents from a specific district, state or the nation as a whole who go through an online process called a ‘policymaking simulation’ that is reviewed in advance by experts and advocates across the spectrum of views to ensure accuracy and balance. Constituents:

  • receive a briefing on a current issue
  • evaluate arguments for and against the policy options
  • make policy recommendations

Nine-in-ten voters approve of the Citizen Cabinet idea. Two-thirds think that a Citizen Cabinet would likely increase the responsiveness by a member of Congress to the views of the people.

Importantly for the 2020 elections, when Democratic and Republican respondents were presented a candidate from the opposing party endorsing having a Citizen Cabinet, large majorities from each party nonetheless expressed a positive view of the opposing party candidate. Presented a hard-hitting debate for and against the idea of a Citizen Cabinet, large majorities said they would cross party lines to vote for the candidate who favored it.

Finding Common Ground

An overwhelming 88 percent say that Congress would be more likely to find common ground if the public’s views had more influence on policymakers.

A major pilot study with Citizen Cabinets suggests they are right. The report summarized the findings of a major pilot study with a national Citizen Cabinet, as well as in nine states and in two Congressional districts. Bipartisan majorities agreed on dozens of solutions to national policy challenges on a wide variety of topics including immigration, the federal budget, Social Security, Medicare, federal poverty programs, energy and the environment, government reform, criminal justice, the U.S. Postal Service, and more.

“Frustrated voters, and voters who feel disconnected from government, won’t be satisfied with new slogans,” said Howard Konar, founder of Common Ground Solutions. “They are more interested in answers and results. They want clear signs that their elected officials are actually listening to them and working on common sense solutions.”


The five surveys for this study were conducted online over the last two years with a total of 16,525 registered voters provided by Nielsen Scarborough from Nielsen Scarborough’s panel of respondents, who were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The margin of error varied from +/-1.8 to +/-2.2% for questions that were asked to the full sample. For questions that went to partial samples, the margin of error was as high as +/-4.5%.

An in-depth survey finds that, to discourage illegal immigration, only 4 in 10 favor building a wall, rather a bipartisan majority of 72% favor requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to ensure that the people they hire have the legal right to work in the United States. At the same time, to meet demands for labor 69% favor substantially increasing guest worker visas.

The survey of 2,407 registered voters, conducted by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) at the University of Maryland, was released today by the nonpartisan organization Voice of the People.

To ensure that respondents understood the issue, they were given a short briefing on the US immigration program and a number of possible reforms in proposed Congressional legislation. The content was reviewed by proponents and opponents of the proposals, to ensure the briefing was accurate and balanced, and the strongest arguments were presented.

“Democrats and Republicans in Washington DC are at loggerheads on whether to build a border wall to impede illegal immigration.  This survey reveals a nuanced bipartisan public consensus for a combination of steps to legally regulate the flow of immigrant labor that both discourages the hiring of undocumented workers and opens channels to meet the demand for migrant workers,” commented Steven Kull, director of PPC.

To discourage the hiring of undocumented workers 83% of Republicans and 66% of Democrats favor proposed Congressional legislation requiring employers to use the E-Verify system.  Employers who do not verify their employees and are found to be employing undocumented immigrants would be fined.

But to meet the demand for labor through legal channels, 73% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats support proposed legislation calling for substantial increases in the number of temporary work visas, called H-2B visas, for industries such as landscaping, construction, hotels, conservation, and amusement parks. Such increases would only be allowed if the government verifies that there are no American workers who want those jobs and employers pay the same wage that is paid to American workers in those jobs.

Fifty-four percent overall and 63% of Democrats also favor increasing the number of green cards provided to immigrants who are selected because the Department of Labor has verified that there is a need for their skill in the US economy and that hiring them will not have a negative effect on the wages of American workers.  Also included would be investors that will invest at least $500,000 in the US and create at least 10 jobs.  However, in this case 53% of Republicans are opposed.

Asked to evaluate a number of proposals that have been put forward  in Congressional legislation for dealing with immigrants who arrived here illegally as children (aka “Dreamers”), the most popular idea for both Republicans and Democrats is one that provides a path to citizenship, provided that the Dreamers have not committed any crimes and pose no security threat.  According to this plan, they would first be allowed to apply for a special eight-year green card and if they meet certain requirements related to education, work history, or military service, after a period they could apply for citizenship.  Overall, 70% find this proposal at least tolerable, as do 67% of Republicans, as well as 74% of Democrats.

Not surprisingly, there are also some significant partisan divergences.

  • 59% overall, and 85% of Democrats oppose spending $25 billion “to build a stronger barrier along the US southern border with Mexico, primarily by building a wall,” however, 74% of Republicans favor doing so.
  • 55% overall, and 69% of Republicans favor replacing the current farm guest worker program that requires farmers to pay workers about $11-14 per hour and provide housing and transportation, with one that allows farmers to pay $8.43 an hour and removes the requirement to provide housing or transportation. However 55% of Democrats are opposed.

For the current programs that provide green cards to family members of citizens and permanent residents, large bipartisan majorities oppose eliminating any of the programs, and overall majorities opposed reducing their current numbers.  However, majorities of Republicans favor reducing the number of green cards granted in these programs.

The survey was conducted online from October 1 through 16, 2018 with a national probability-based sample of 2,407 registered voters, provided by Nielsen Scarborough from Nielsen Scarborough’s sample of respondents, who were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households.

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