What is Public Agenda?

Public Agenda, an innovative public opinion research and public engagement organization, works to strengthen our democracy's capacity to tackle tough public policy issues. Our efforts – online, through PublicAgenda.org, our issue guides and Citizen's Survival Kit, Our Fiscal Future, and on our social networks - and in communities around the country, and through our academic arm, the Center for Advances in Public Engagement (CAPE), are all focused on ensuring that the public's views are represented in decision-making.

Nonpartisan and nonprofit, Public Agenda was founded by social scientist and author Daniel Yankelovich and former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance in 1975, to re-engage the public on important public matters, to allow different groups to be heard and work together on solutions. We work on a long list of issues, but we're especially well-known for our efforts in education K-12, higher education, energy issues and climate change, public engagement on the problem of the federal budget deficit and national debt, and public views on foreign policy.

Too often, there's a significant gap between how leaders and experts define an issue and how the public views problems. The political debates that result often leave the public feeling left out because their views aren't heard, while policymakers are frustrated because they're unable to cope with public resistance. Our in-depth, unbiased opinion research bridges this gap as our findings and data, instead of supporting one side or another in a partisan debate, powerfully clarifies public attitudes. This can both show what the public knows about an issue (click here to learn more about the Learning Curve™ theory on why this research is critical to crafting effective public policy) and suggest ways public policy dialogue might be moved forward toward fair and effective solutions.

Journalists, policymakers, students, teachers and citizens rely on our nonpartisan issue guides – created under a Creative Commons copyright to allow sharing of information - for facts and figures, different perspectives and analysis of public attitudes. As a scrupulously fair-minded producer of citizen education materials and a facilitator of thoughtful public participation, we often work directly with communities, government agencies and other organizations to improve their ability to create authentic public engagement and problem-solving in tackling issues such as school reform, urban planning, and religious and cultural differences. (Find out more about how we can help your community).

PublicAgenda.org has been nominated twice for the prestigious Webby Award as one of the Internet's best sources for balanced, accurate information on public policy issues.


"We were tackling some difficult issues. Many participants—understandably—had very strong feelings on the issues, which could make discussion challenging. Public Agenda’s remarkable facilitation skills and their unbending commitment to honest engagement really made a difference. We were able to have open, constructive discussions, with all voices heard, generating great ideas for moving forward."

Judy Heiman of HCM Strategists, regarding a stakeholder meeting Public Agenda had facilitated


"I can't tell you how much I appreciate the fine work that you do at Public Agenda. The 'dialogue' piece is huge. Hopefully this stimulates and encourages more constructive debate on how we can improve education in this country."

Community College Counselor


"We had a terrific discussion around the table… and it, in turn, spurred some really amazing comments from everyone in the audience. It was exciting to see how many people appreciated the purpose of deliberation as a result."

Beth Offenbacker of PublicDecisions.com, talking about a climate change discussion conducted by Public Agenda on the virtual world platform SecondLife.com


"The communities we serve are very, very different. With Public Agenda's assistance through Community Conversations and Student-Faculty Dialogues, we have been able to understand our communities at a level that was previously not possible. We have used Public Agenda's engagement work successfully to gain internal and external input for our new Strategic Plan."

Thomas Baynum, president of Coastal Bend Community College, talking about our work on the Achieving The Dream initiative


"Public Agenda ... does good work, as free of institutional bias as any I regularly see."

Washington Post columnist William Raspberry


"Public Agenda, a New York-based nonprofit that does opinion surveys on a range of issues, compiled an analysis of a decade of polling on public education – and the news reports about the study were eye-catching…the report deserved a closer look."

Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger


"Public Agenda's help was invaluable in our efforts to engage Nebraska's citizens and develop an approach to academic standards that was right for our state."

Doug Christensen, Nebraska Commissioner of Education (retired).


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