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Archive for the ‘Bias’ Category

Changing American Attitudes: Gay/Lesbian Issues

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
posted by Douglas Keene

FL21 Lesbian pride FlagRecently, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed AB2501 banning the “gay panic” defense in California. The story in the Visalia Times-Delta says, Californians cannot claim in court that they were

“acting from panic or passion when they killed someone who they either knew or found out was gay or transgender.  Now they will face the full charges for their crime, just as if they had killed a heterosexual person.  No more “momentary insanity” claims because someone of the same gender (or transgender) made a pass (or you thought they made a pass) at you”.

And it isn’t just California. Attitudes toward gay/lesbian people are changing across America. We see those shifts in surveys by secular polling groups routinely. But when we see them in surveys hosted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), we need to take notice. In June of 2014, PRRI posted a fact sheet on gay and lesbian issues based on recent survey results. In brief, here is what they had to say:

Same-sex marriage:

A majority of Americans favor legal same-sex marriage (53%) while just 41% oppose.

Democrats support legal same-sex marriage (64%) as do Independents (57%), but only a minority of Republicans have support for legal same-sex marriage (34%).

Young adults (aged 18 to 29) support legal same-sex marriage (69%) while senior citizens mostly do not (56% oppose).

Same-sex marriage and religion:

51% of Americans say same-sex marriage is against their religious beliefs, but 45% disagree.

Americans tend to perceive three religious groups as unfriendly toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) people: the Catholic Church (58%), the Mormon Church (53%), and evangelical Christian Churches (51%).

Discrimination against LGBT people in American society and workplace protections:

More than 2/3 of Americans (68%) think gay and lesbian people face a lot of discrimination in the US.

72% favor laws that would protect gay and lesbian people from job discrimination. 23% oppose these laws. 75% of Americans think Congress should pass laws to protect transgender people from job discrimination, while 21% disagree.

Morality-Acceptance Gap on Gay and Lesbian Relationships:

51% of Americans say (despite the majority support for same-sex marriage) that sex between adults of the same gender is morally wrong.

Parenting and Adoption by Gay and Lesbian Couples:

58% of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian people to adopt children, and 37% are  opposed.

Nature vs. Nurture Debate About Sexual Orientation:

44% of Americans think being gay and/or lesbian is “something a person is born with” while 36% think it is “due to factors such as upbringing or environment”. 12% think it is some combination of the two (i.e., nature + nurture).

There is more in this fact sheet that we have not covered here. You can find information on the breakdown of attitudes by religious affiliation, attitudes about the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Federalism, a breakdown of attitudes by political affiliation, and attitudes on ordination of gay and lesbian people. Overall, it’s a good primer on where attitudes are now in the United States about wide-ranging issues related to gay lesbian people.

Fact Sheet: Gay and Lesbian Issues. 2013. Public Religion Research Institute.

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Libertarian orientation scaleAfter years of not having a way to measure those who consistently respond in a Libertarian direction, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) has offered us a new scale to do just that. We posted on Monday about their survey of Libertarians and this is the measure they used to determine who was really Libertarian, who tended to lean Libertarian, who was not Libertarian, and who was a mixture of Libertarian and non-Libertarian attitudes. It’s an intriguing scale. But first, some terminology is in order.

Libertarians are–in some cases rugged–individualists and thus notoriously (and probably proudly) difficult for researchers to pigeon-hole or label. A 1984 publication defined libertarianism as composed of two dimensions: personal freedom and government intervention. Since 1984, these current authors say, the “issue agenda has evolved” and they therefore used 9 separate questions to examine three dimensions of present-day Libertarianism: national security and international intervention, economic policy, and personal liberty issues.

Second, they define non-Libertarians as “Communalists”. Why? Because their responses were the opposite of the Libertarian responses on this scale. Libertarians score low in their desire for government intervention at the cost of personal liberties–while Communalists preferred (i.e., scored higher on desire for) government intervention even when it cost some personal liberties.

As you can see in the graphic illustrating this post, 54% of Americans have Mixed Libertarian and Communal attitudes/beliefs. Those who respond consistently Libertarian or Communalist each make up 7% of the population, while 15% lean Libertarian and 17% lean Communalist.

So. With those definitions in mind, the researchers asked the respondents if they would identify with the label “Libertarian”. Thirteen percent did (but their response pattern was less consistent ideologically than those who were identified by the Libertarian Orientation Scale as either Libertarian or Libertarian leaning). Without further ado, here are the questions (from page 7 in the full report) the researchers used to identify the Libertarians in their sample.

Libertarian Orientation Scale items

Each question was placed on a 7-point Likert scale (ranging from 1 to 7) with a low score representing the Libertarian position and a high score representing the Communal position. Thus, the most Libertarian score would be a 9 and the most Communal score a 63 for the total scale. Scores in this sample ranged from 12 to 63. Scores from 9-25 were classified as Libertarians, scores of 26-31 were classified as Libertarian Leaning, scores from 32-42 were classified as Mixed, scores from 43-48 were classified as having Communalist Leanings, and those with scores from 49-63 were classified as Communalists.

The remainder of the PRRI report looks closely at the difference between the groups (i.e., Libertarian, Lean Libertarian, Communalist, Lean Communalist, Mixed) as defined by this measure. It is interesting and easy reading, as well as a nice way to modify your beliefs (aka stereotypes) about this group. While these are not likely questions you can use in voir dire to classify potential jurors based on these categories, it is a clear look at the issues that may be particularly important to those with either Libertarian or Communalist leanings.

Libertarians, like the rest of us, have changed over the years. Thanks to PRRI for bringing our awareness up to date.

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how white is your network imageNot very Black at all. In fact, according to the 2013 American Values Survey from the Public Religion Institute, “the average white American’s social network is only 1% black”. But wait. It gets worse.

“Three-quarters of white Americans haven’t had a meaningful conversation with a single non-white person in the last six months.”

We are not talking about Facebook networks. Instead, we are talking about a much more meaningful definition of network. The researchers asked respondents to identify “up to seven people with whom you have discussed important matters in the past six months”. Respondents were then asked to provide descriptors of those individuals’  “gender, race and ethnicity, religious affiliation, 2012 vote preference, and relationship to the respondent”. In fairness, seven people in 6 months could mean that you have a pretty small circle for sharing significant things, but the results remain telling. For most people, this circle could mean family and close, intimate friends. For others, it could mean work collaborators and neighbors. It’s hard to predict. But what is clear is that most people live insular lives, accompanied by others much like themselves.

As you might imagine, the networks of some people were actually quite small.

While only 8% had no one identified in their network, 50% named between 1 and 3 people, and 43% named 4 or more people (up to 7).

People in the networks of Americans responding to this survey were only slightly more likely to be immediate family members (average: 1.8 people) than to be non-immediate family members (average: 1.5 people).

The picture becomes more surprising when we see just how segregated American society is by race and ethnicity. The following is a direct quote from the report.

“The degree of racial and ethnic diversity in Americans’ social networks varies significantly according to their particular race or ethnicity.

Among white Americans, 91 percent of people comprising their social networks are also white, while five percent are identified as some other race.

Among black Americans, 83 percent of people in their social networks are composed of people who are also black, while eight percent are white and six percent are some other race.

Among Hispanic Americans, approximately two-thirds (64 percent) of the people who comprise their social networks are also Hispanic, while nearly 1-in-5 (19 percent) are white, and nine percent are some other race.”

This table shows the tendency toward racial segregation among those with whom we talk about “important issues”.

how white is your network

 

You may think you know why this is the case. It is likely due to commonalities and differences other than race. But we cannot explain away the lack of racial diversity in our social networks by using our go-to arguments like age, political affiliation, gender, or even geographic residence. What differences there are, are fairly small.

It is a startling picture to contemplate considering the way race and the different ways the racial groups view race in this country have been highlighted with first, the Trayvon Martin shooting and now the Michael Brown shooting. We simply “self-segregate” says Robert P. Jones recently in the Atlantic in an article on Ferguson, Missouri. We self-segregate so much that it is no wonder white Americans and black Americans have very different perspectives on race in America. We just don’t talk to each other.

It’s another good reason to reinforce the idea that your client, witness, party is similar to the jury even if they are racially different. We need to expose our white jurors to the experience of black and brown Americans. We call it using universal values. This survey data would say our social networks and our day-to-day lives are not filled with an awareness of how universal those values actually are.

The American Values Survey: Race and Americans’ Social Networks. 2013 Public Religion Research Institute. http://publicreligion.org/research/2014/08/analysis-social-network/

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immigration 2014We’ve blogged about immigration a number of times here and now it’s popped up again.  After the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001, we found a question on attitudes toward immigration successfully differentiated between Plaintiff and Defense jurors for several years. Attitudes differentiating “us” versus “them” have always had utility when anticipating some kinds of juror attitudes, but the lines seemed to become more sharply drawn after 9/11/2001. The Christian Science Monitor recently published the results of a Reuters survey on attitudes toward immigration and cited the following:

70% of Americans (and 86% of Republicans) believe that undocumented immigrants threaten traditional US beliefs and customs.

63% said undocumented immigrants place undue burden on the US economy.

45% think the number of immigrants allowed to legally enter the country should be reduced and only 17% thought the number should increase.

17% see immigration as the #1 national problem (up from just 5% in July, 2014).

The authors of the CSM article think this sudden shift may be due to the 50,000 unaccompanied children apprehended at the border since October 2013. They also suggest that these revitalized attitudes against immigration may spur Republican votes in upcoming elections. The new Pew political typology report (and our interpretation of the key Pew findings to the jury trials) certainly highlights the “issue-specific” way in which voter turnout can swing in our “new normal” political environment.

It’s as though the political landscape is becoming more like the deliberation room, wherein the attitudes, values and beliefs of those gathered together can be more important than the actual evidence presented. Some of our most vociferous and verbal mock jurors actually have very limited information on the topic at hand. We always listen carefully and question thoroughly as to why they came to their expressed belief. That process typically results in their losing ‘authority’ in the discussion, because the emptiness of their reasoning is less persuasive than their passion. But their questions and comments offer us valuable information on how to patch holes in the case narrative so their loudness will gain little, if any, traction in the (unsupervised and unobserved) deliberation room.

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“S/he is just not one of us…”

Wednesday, September 3, 2014
posted by Rita Handrich

she-is-not-even-one-of-us.american-apparel-unisex-long-sleeve-tee.black.w380h440z1b3Just over a year ago, The Jury Expert published an article on bias and ambiguity in times of economic stress. The article was titled Does This Recession Make Me Look Black? –and it focused on how White Americans see racially ambiguous appearing others as in-group members until times are tough and then we see them as out-group members (i,e, Black). In that case, it was about multi-racial targets who were seen as White in times of economic plenty but as African-American in times of economic recession.

Today’s article looks at very similar patterns but through the lens of social dominance orientation and right wing authoritarianism. These are two long-studied ideas in the social sciences but they apparently have not been looked at before in terms of how we see [racially] “ambiguous others” as either “one of us” or “not one of us”. As a review, let’s briefly look at a summary of these two ideas (as presented by the researchers):

Social dominance orientation: If you are high in social dominance orientation (SDO), you favor maintaining anti-egalitarian, hierarchical relationships between social groups and favor the domination of “inferior” groups by “superior” ones.

Those high in SDO will be primarily concerned with the status of the ambiguous targets, since they are concerned about maintaining and strengthening group boundaries. High SDO people are likely to cast out those with low status (since they might bring the status of the SDOs superior group down) but to maintain the membership of [racially] ambiguous targets who have high status.

Right-wing authoritarianism: If you score high in right-wing authoritarianism (RWA), you are concerned with tradition, submission to recognized authorities, and aggression toward those who violate the social norms of the in-group.

Those high in RWA will be especially sensitive to the conformity of [racially] ambiguous targets in their willingness to identify them as members of the in-group. When ambiguous targets do not conform to group norms, those with high levels of RWA would see the target as a threat to group cohesion and thus be more willing to see them as out-group members.

The researchers completed four separate studies where they used racially ambiguous targets to see how those high in SDO and/or RWA might react to them. They were curious about what drives in-group versus out-group attributions/assignments when the target is racially ambiguous. Instead of working our way through the four separate studies, we are going to skip to the findings.

Individuals high in SDO were less likely to perceive a low status ambiguous target in in-group terms. Those high in RWA were less likely to perceive a nonconformist ambiguous target in in-group terms. (These two findings were based on participant reactions to two different and highly negative news stories with racially ambiguous villains.)

Individuals high in SDO were less likely to see a target as White if they were low status rather than high status. (In this study, the participants were asked “how White the target looked”.) Those low in SDO did not differ significantly in their sense of “how White” the target appeared. The researchers saw this as reflecting the high SDO individual’s desire to resist “contamination” of their superior group with low status targets but also the desire to adopt high status targets who might enhance the status of the group to outsiders.

Those high in RWA saw targets that conformed as “more White” than targets that did not conform. For those low in RWA, there was no such relationship. The researchers saw this as the high RWA individual’s desire to maintain conformity within their group.

The results are consistent with what the article in The Jury Expert found–we welcome those that are racially ambiguous as long as we are in financial plenty (and they won’t leave us hurting for resources), or if they are high status (and will make us look good), or if they conform (and won’t make us look bad).

It’s a chilling and current assessment of race relations in America. As long as the boat doesn’t get rocked, you’re okay. If I perceive any sense of threat, you’re not okay. All the more reason, given the fickleness of our sense of whether we are threatened, to work to help jurors see your racially ambiguous or racially different client/witness/party as being as similar to the jurors as possible by using universal values in descriptions and testimony.

Kteily, N, Cotterill, S, Sidanius, J, Sheehy-Skeffington, J, & Bergh, R (2014). “Not one of us”: Predictors and consequences of denying in-group characteristics to ambiguous targets. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin

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