Focus Group Discussions as Sites for Public Deliberation and Sensemaking Following Shared Political Documentary Viewing


This study examines the potential that shared political documentary viewing coupled with public deliberation via focus group discussion has for political sensemaking and civic engagement. Specifically, we examine college students’ perceptions of sensemaking, future civic engagement, and benefits of participating in group discussion following the shared viewing of D’Souza’s political documentary 2016: Obama’s America. Focus group participants reported that engaging in discussion served to clarify, affirm, and reinforce some initial impressions while opening their eyes to new insights and information. Focus group participation triggered a desire to seek out and hear additional diverse points of view and offered participants the opportunity to diffuse negative emotions and reflect upon media content. Participants reported that they enjoyed participating in this form of guided discussion, reported increased confidence in their abilities to engage in public political deliberation, and reported feeling a call to future civic action. Our findings show that political documentary viewing coupled with focus group discussions can be a productive site for public deliberation that can lead to enhanced sensemaking and positive future civic behaviors including intentions to extend discussions to personal networks and to research issues raised in the discussion or documentary. We address implications for deliberative pedagogy and focus groups as public deliberation.


Deliberative Pedagogy, Qualitative - Focus Groups, Sensemaking, Participation, Entertainment / Popular Media / Popular Culture, Deliberation & Political Conversation, Discourse, Civic Engagement

How to Cite

Pitts M. & Kenski K. & Smith S. & Pavlich C., (2017) “Focus Group Discussions as Sites for Public Deliberation and Sensemaking Following Shared Political Documentary Viewing”, Journal of Public Deliberation 13(2). doi:







Margaret Jane Pitts (University of Arizona)
Kate Kenski (University of Arizona)
Stephanie A. Smith (Virginia Tech University)
Corey A. Pavlich (University of Arizona)



Publication details



Creative Commons Attribution 4.0


Peer Review

This article has been peer reviewed.

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