Scenario #6
Opinion barometer

Opinion barometer

Aims / objectives

The aim of the method is to discuss controversial issues. The different opinions on the barometer lead to discussion and a reflection process. Critical thinking and tolerance of ambiguity can be promoted in this way. Respect for other opinions is also a goal of this method.

Description of the method

Stick a long strip of tape to the floor. Now write “0%” on one facilitator card and “100%” on a second one and put the labelled cards at each end of the tape – this is your opinion barometer. Make sure the barometer is long enough so the participants don’t have to crowd around it. Now explain to the participants that you will read different statements about politics to them. Ask them to move around the room quietly during the first and also in the intermediate rounds. Now read two to three statements from the worksheet “Opinion Barometer Statements” one after the other.

Tell the participants to position themselves according to their level of agreement with the statement that is read, namely if they stand next to 0%, this means they do not agree at all. When they stand next to 100%, they agree completely. They can also stand in any other place inbetween, depending on their level of agreement. Once all participants have found their place after a statement is read, ask individual participants where they stand and why. At this point, also add that they are allowed to change their position during the exercise if they hear arguments from others that cause them to reconsider their position.

Reflection questions:

1. First through third question:

  • Where do you stand and why?
  • You are standing in the same place as participant XY, does this mean you both think alike?
  • You are standing at the other end of the barometer, does this mean you think what participant XY said is absolutely untrue?

2. If a short discussion should arise:

  • Has participant XY convinced you with their explanation?
  • Would you like to change your position?

Final reflection:

Does a 100% democratic situation exist at all? If so, what does it look like?

The controversial neighbour: When the group is very united in one issue, you could use a little trick to incite controversial discussion: Take up your position at the other end of the barometer from the group and invent an opposing point of view. Say that this (invented) point of view is that of a neighbour you know and ask the group to tell you what they think about this neighbour’s opinion. In the end, you can confess you only invented the neighbour to introduce a different point of view.

Usability in social work

The method is well suited for discussing controversial topics in everyday life. Somewhat modified, the method could also be played out on a sports field. It does, however, require certain formal framework conditions and the willingness of the young people to engage in a longer exchange. It is very important to ensure that individual opinions are not isolated or excluded and can also be articulated. The exercise needs to be done in a safe space with a trustful relationship, so that the participants are ready to express their opinions openly and without fear.


Name of the method

Opinion barometer

Target group

All target groups


20 to 30 minutes

Spatial requirements

Seminar room or sports field


Tolerance of ambiguity, respect, critical thinking


Discuss controversial issues; foster mutual understanding and dialogue

Method description

Participants position themselves in the room along a marked out barometer according to how much they agree or disagree with a statement; followed by discussion

Social work context

Can be applied in social work especially in polarised groups, but needs some preparation and space


Adhesive tape, facilitator cards, pencils, Opinion Barometer Statements


Isolated opinions could be excluded or could be difficult to express due to social pressure. Thus, a safe space and trustful context needs to be assured.

Concept / application

Applied by the Vienna Forum for Human Rights and Democracy in trainings during the project


Variation by Sapere Aude: (translated by Brita Pohl)

Check our Partners