Follow me on Twitter

Blog archive

We Participate In:

ABA Journal Blawg 100!

Subscribe to The Jury Room via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Login

How afraid are we of terrorism? Very afraid.  

Wednesday, July 5, 2017
posted by Rita Handrich

Just this week I saw the Gallup survey on trust in the US government to protect citizens against terrorism and knew immediately we needed to blog about the survey here. While I’ve seen people say that politicians will go to war for more favorable showings on polls, in focus groups, or in the ballot box—I never really understood how it could be used well until the last two seasons of House of Cards, a [fictional] Netflix show.

Here’s just one way fear was manipulated on House of Cards.

And now, the proof that this is not just made for TV (or Netflix) but even more powerful in real life is before us in black and white. Gallup sampled actual citizens here in the US (a random sample of 1,009 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, 70% cell phone respondents and 30% landline respondents, all selected by random-digit-dial methods) on how much trust we have in our government to protect us against terrorism.

These are just a sampling of Gallup’s entire findings, please review the survey results here for full information. As one might expect, concerns about terrorism are high immediately following a terror attack and lower when there has been no recent terrorist activity.

70% of Americans trust the US government either “a great deal” or “a fair amount” to protect us from future acts of terrorism. (This is up from when Gallup last asked this question in 2015 [then the percentage was only 55%] immediately after the San Bernadino, California terrorist shooting where 14 people were killed.)

42% of Americans are “very” or “somewhat” worried that we (or our family members) will be victims of terrorism. (Also down since the San Bernadino shootings when it was 51%.)

60% of Americans believe a terrorist attack is “very” or “somewhat likely” in the “next several weeks”. (After San Bernadino, that percentage was at 67%.)

Gallup believes that these percentages are susceptible to flaring up again when there are terrorist events here in the US or abroad. From a litigation advocacy perspective, this tells us that fear is a powerful thing. In recent years there have been some very popular books written on how to inject fear into the jury box, even if when it is outside the scope of the actual testimony. And, as those Defense attorneys faced with a Plaintiff attorney using fear-based approaches to influence jurors know, it can work quite well.

If there is an element of fear in your case, it can be exploited (or spontaneously perceived by fear-driven jurors) and you will want to be ready to inoculate jurors with information telling them there is not a real and present threat.

Or, as in this blog post, you may want to help them experience safety through being loved and cared for by some authority figure—perhaps in the form of your own Defense client.

Gallup Organization. June 19, 2017. Seven in 10 Trust US Government to Protect Against Terrorism. http://www.gallup.com/poll/212558/seven-trust-government-protect-against-terrorism.aspx?version=print

Image

Share
%d bloggers like this: