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global_climate_changeOur scientists are not divided but we the people are very divided on the issue of climate change. You would think that when 97% of scientists agree the global weather patterns (aka “climate change”) are changing (aka “warming”) that Americans would give up and just say “okay, yeah, it’s happening”. But if you think that, you are in for a disappointment according to a new article in the Environment Magazine.

In the face of increasing political divisions here in the US, we have begun to track multiple political analysis publications for information we can glean to use in litigation advocacy. In this paper, the authors say the division on climate change is likely an outgrowth of partisan polarization here in the US:

“Even the most casual observer of American politics cannot help but notice that partisan conflict has grown sharper, unrelenting, and more ideological over recent decades.” This has resulted from both political elites and—to a lesser but noticeable degree—much of the public viewing a growing number of issues along a single liberal-conservative continuum, and from this ideological axis becoming increasingly aligned with partisan identification.

Other writers (like political analyst Lilliana Mason) say that party identification has become a sort of “social identity” and, as such, is more important to how individuals see themselves. If this is accurate, and there is some reason to believe that is true based on other articles we’ve been reading in the political analysis area, then perhaps there are ways the political social identity would show itself. In an effort to not disappoint us, the author presents data on that very question.

Here’s an example of how that “social identity” is seen in a question as to whether the majority of scientists believe global warming is real. Recall that about 97% of scientists agree that climate change is real. Whether Americans accept that scientific consensus seems to depend on their political identification.  The following graphic is taken directly from the article (cited at the bottom of this post).


As you can see in this visual demonstration (based on data from the good folks at Gallup) the political polarization has been seen since about 2001 (which we would point out was when 9/11 occurred), since which time there has actually been a decrease in the number of Republicans reporting a belief in global warming.

Over time, the public opinions on this issue have hardened with Democrats and the total public agreeing with scientists and Republicans showing the most disagreement with scientists on global warming. The authors cite others who say that Republicans have become more conservative and Democrats have become more liberal over time.

As an aside, this is also not something we’ve seen in our own mock juror data although Republicans we have sampled are more likely than Democrats we have sampled to say they are conservative and Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they are liberal. We just don’t think you can simplistically categorize Republicans as conservative and Democrats as liberal. We tend to think, as do our mock jurors who often write on our questionnaires asking if they are liberal or conservative—“on what issues?”.

With that said, however, we present another table from the article looking at the global warming views of conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats.  There is a huge difference between their perspectives. And we will add that if given a choice between self-describing as a conservative or liberal—our mock jurors who describe themselves as “very conservative” and “very liberal” are indeed outliers who respond differently than those who are “merely” either conservative or liberal. The authors think the partisan divide was first seen back in 2008 but it has grown since then. They feel strongly enough about the partisan divide to say this:

“Whether, and how, individual Americans vote this November may well be the most consequential climate-related decision most of them will have ever taken.”


While we’ve seen other trial consultants we respect saying political party affiliation is a good identifier of values, attitudes and beliefs, we haven’t seen such a bright line division in our own pretrial research. It all depends on the specific case and the way in which case narrative is framed and developed. We continually look to polls and surveys to give us guidance on the shifting attitudes and values in this country. In that vein, we have been tracking political perspective since we began working in the field of trial consulting but have been paying special attention to it since about 2006 and still cannot say we agree with dividing up Republicans and Democrats as conservatives and liberals.

In today’s article, political analyst Liliana Mason was quoted as saying that “individuals can hold somewhat moderate positions on may issues and yet be strong partisans committed to keeping the other party out of office”.

These authors think the 2016 presidential elections will be a very important election when it comes to climate change and environmental issues. We tend to agree and while the divisiveness in the country is disturbing, from a litigation advocacy perspective, the stark polarization among US citizens offers us a unique opportunity to test variables researchers identify as polarizing to see if they are related to eventual verdict decisions in pretrial research. So stay tuned.

Dunlap, R., McCright, A., & Yarosh, J. (2016). The Political Divide on Climate Change: Partisan Polarization Widens in the U.S. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 58 (5), 4-23 DOI: 10.1080/00139157.2016.1208995

Full text accessible here:


Comments Off on Divided [North] America: We are (still) divided on climate change 

what-divides-americans-norcThis week we are looking at multiple sources discussing the divisions among American citizens and trying to identify variables of interest in litigation advocacy from that discussion. We watch lots of media sources for information useful in our work and one of those sources is the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research (at the University of Chicago). They often perform large-scale surveys designed to be representative of the US household population and this time they have taken a look at what divides those of us living in the United States of America. Ultimately—it is our values and our politics.

They comment that political campaigns “especially presidential campaigns, raise both the extent and intensity of public debate” and that debate clearly shows in the NORC report of the survey results. This is a fairly quick report to read for yourself so we are just going to summarize some of the high points here. The divisions in the US are especially visible right now and you may want to take a look at the themes in the graphic illustrating this post (taken from the report itself) and see if any of those themes are represented in your specific case. If they are, you may want to consider scheduling a trial date after the presidential elections in November, 2016.

Here are just a few of the findings from the NORC survey on what divides the US::

Eighty percent say Americans are divided on most important values, and 85 percent say the country is more politically divided today than it was in the past.

However, most Americans (62%) say their local community is in agreement with their own basic values.

Most Americans (56 percent) say diversity makes the United States stronger, 16 percent say it makes the country weaker, and 28 percent say it has no effect.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans and Independents to say diversity of backgrounds make the country stronger. Men, city-dwellers, college-educated adults and Hispanics are more likely to say having mixed ethnicities makes the country stronger and those living in rural areas and those who are less educated tend to be the ones saying diversity makes no difference or actually makes the country weaker. Even presidential candidate selection weighs in here: 70% of Clinton supporters think diversity makes the US stronger while only 41% of Trump’s supporters agree.

Neither candidate for President is seen as capable of uniting the country. But, while 43 percent say Clinton’s election would increase division, 73 percent say that about Trump’s election.

Again, there are divisions based on demographic characteristics: Blacks (71%) think Clinton will unite the country as do Hispanics (49%) and then whites (21%). Whites are most likely to say Clinton will divide the country. Millennials (at least those under age 30) are more likely to say Trump will divide the country even further while those 60+ say he will unite the country (26%) and only 13% of those under age 60 agree with them.

So how does this square with people’s sense that they are in harmony with the values of their communities? How can you feel one way locally and starkly different when it comes to the nation? In our experience, the most straightforward explanation is fear and presumed differences with those unfamiliar to you. As the exposure to others increases, fear and presumed differences shrink. That’s why urbanites tend to feel less disturbed by cultural diversity—they live in the midst of it and find that it works out pretty well. For those in homogenous communities (due to location or personal preference) the suspicion and mistrust are not challenged by life experiences.

The implications for litigation advocacy are big, but also (for those who have read this blog over the years) pretty familiar. Make your client—or the issues being faced by your client—familiar. Relatable. Help the jury recognize that even if you are somehow different (culture/SES/education/race/religion/gender/sexual orientation), in the ways that matter, we still understand each other. We are motivated by the same worries, longings, dreams.

Effective jury selection and trial planning has to be vigilant about identifying how to minimize resistance.  What trial story can I tell that will reduce resistance from the least sympathetic juror? Who is going to be resistant to the story to which I am tied?

From a litigation advocacy perspective, there are such vivid divisions that it may be possible to actually see (metaphorically speaking) the demographics underlying attitudes toward your case. That doesn’t mean the juror is immovable from their initial negativity, but it does predict that they are starting out with a higher level of resistance to the story that we are going to tell them. We saw similar sorts of attitude shifts following the Enron collapse and for a magical few months in time, we could identify Plaintiff and Defense jurors pretty specifically based on their responses to a handful of questions. It’s happened a few times since then but it is fleeting. We have to pay close attention to catch it. So….

We have been tracking some of the differences in this and other articles on this divided country and are testing them in our pre-trial research to see if they are differences that respond to attempts to measure them or whether they are merely “interesting” to watch and ponder. We will let you know what we find.

National Opinion Resource Center (NORC) Center for Public Affairs Research in cooperation with the Associated Press (AP). (2016). New survey finds vast majority of Americans think the country is divided over values and politics.


Comments Off on Divided [North] America: What divides America? Survey says: Values and Politics 

pew-researchWe like Pew Research here and wanted to bring you two new articles they’ve recently posted that may have relevance for knowing your jurors. It’s been a while since we’ve heard the term “boomerang generation” in regard to Millennials and maybe it’s because they are not planning to go anywhere anytime soon. Yet, if you look at the definition of “boomerang generation” now, it isn’t about moving out and moving back and moving out and moving back again, it’s about staying in place. And Pew has a new article addressing the issue.

Multigenerational households: 2016 

According to Pew Research, we now have a “record 60.6 million Americans living in multigenerational households”. That translates to 1 out of every 5 Americans living in a multigenerational household (defined as two or more adult generations or a home that includes grandparents and grandchildren). Further, the trend is growing among nearly all racial groups (whites are less likely to live multigenerationally) as well as Hispanics in the US, among all age groups, multigenerationaland across genders.

While older adults used to be the ones most commonly living in multigenerational households, now it is young people for whom this living arrangement is most common. It is becoming more common for not just two adult generations to live together but even common for three generational groups. Pew thinks this is the result of immigrant families increasing in the country and a more frequent tendency in those cultures to share households. It is interesting to examine the graph (taken from the Pew site). The number has increased but not sharply. It is a gentle upward trend reflecting the changing demographic of America. As the nation  changes, so do our housing norms.

Religious affiliations of “none”: 2016

Between 2007 (16% of those surveyed) and 2013 (23% of those surveyed), Pew Research says the number of religiously unaffiliated (aka the “nones”) grew rapidly from 35.6 million Americans to 55.8 million Americans saying they had no religious affiliation. Recently, Pew interviewed religious “nones” to see why they had left the church. Their reasons vary widely and as Pew says, the “nones” are far from monolithic. Here is the largest reason those who were raised in the church say they ended up leaving as adults:

religious-nonesAbout half of current religious “nones” who were raised in a religion (49%) indicate that a lack of belief led them to move away from religion. This includes many respondents who mention “science” as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said “I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.” Others reference “common sense,” “logic” or a “lack of evidence” – or simply say they do not believe in God.

The others may have objections to organized religion, be religiously unsure, or simply inactive due to other obligations. Pew describes the “nones’ as composed of three groups:

They can be broken down into three broad subgroups: self-identified atheists, those who call themselves agnostic and people who describe their religion as “nothing in particular.”

From a litigation advocacy perspective, these findings are important. We need to realize both living arrangements and religious affiliations are changing. Some of this reflects the changing racial and ethnic makeup of the country and some of it reflects changing values and beliefs in our society. Sometimes these changes catch us off guard and other times we just think what we knew “back then” still applies today. Pay attention. Don’t be surprised when your assumptions (based on outdated information) are just wrong.


Comments Off on Two facts about potential jurors: Multigenerational  households and a religious preference of “none”

bias switch onDespite Hillary Clinton’s historic shattering of the glass ceiling with her Presidential candidacy and Barack Obama’s Presidency (which was predicted to start a national conversation on race)—both sexism and racism are alive and well and living (not very peacefully) in our midst. It’s time for an update on racism and sexism—and spoiler alert—this will not be particularly uplifting content.

On sexism in 2016: “The obstacles that once made it harder for women than men to get ahead are now largely gone”

If you’ve followed this blog for long, you will know we are fans of the Pew Research Center and appreciate their surveys on the shifting opinions of Americans. Recently, Pew published a survey that likely made women everywhere groan (or mutter other things) in disbelief. Specifically, the question to which Pew asked for a response was: “the obstacles that once made it harder for women than men to get ahead are now largely gone”. Almost half of Americans (45%) agree with this statement—among those agreeing are 56% of men, 34% of women, 63% of Republicans, and 30% of Democrats. Older men are more likely to say there are still significant obstacles facing women than are younger men—although, Pew reports that Democrats overall are more likely to think women face significant obstacles than do Republicans.

The Atlantic (another favorite site of ours for publishing thought-provoking articles on societal attitudes) recently published an article entitled “The era of ‘the bitch’ is coming”. In that article, they opine a Hillary Clinton presidential victory will “usher in a new age of public misogyny” (also described with historical examples by Malcolm Gladwell in the first episode of his excellent new podcast, Revisionist History). Both the article and the podcast are sobering examples of just how far we have not come, baby. On the other hand, the American Bar Association finally banned sexist language in court so there should now be no more ‘honey’ or ‘darling’ or ‘sweetie’ used when addressing women in the courtroom.

On racism in 2016: “America isn’t more racist. It’s just shouting it instead of whispering

While some have been appalled by Donald Trump’s bigotry and racism, others have welcomed it as long overdue in public discourse. Some have tried to explain his candidacy’s success and others say it is simply not explainable. Presidential campaign politics aside—there is plenty to talk about in racism news in 2016.

A new Gallup poll says 46% of American blacks report being treated unfairly in the last thirty days and Jay Newton-Small, the Washington correspondent for Time Magazine tells the story of widely varying differences in perspective based on race while he served as a juror on a multiracial jury in the assault trial of Carlos Galloway (accused of assaulting a fellow black male). Here’s a paragraph describing Newton-Small’s experience:

The jury consisted of five black women, two white men, four white women and me, a Eurasian mix. Our views on what happened, what we knew and how we should vote were starkly different based upon our backgrounds. To most of the white jurors, there was overwhelming evidence: A motive; a broken, blood-covered knife; and two impartial eyewitnesses. But the jury overall ended up convicting Galloway of misdemeanor simple assault, meaning that while we acknowledged that an assault had happened, we did not find him guilty of using or even possessing a knife.

He goes on to describe in detail how race related to how the individual jurors saw the facts of the case very, very differently. The article is well worth the read.

The poll numbers on racism are not as bad as those on sexism, 61% of Americans in a new Gallup poll say racism against blacks is widespread in 2016—although 41% say racism against whites is also widespread (this is up from 32% in 2015). In Washington State, a self-proclaimed white supremacist stabbed an interracial couple after seeing them kiss outside a restaurant. When he was taken into custody, the police noted this was a “purely racial crime” and that the perpetrator had multiple tattoos with racial slogans such as skinhead and white power.

This happened despite the fairly recent Pew survey finding interracial marriages rising and multiracial babies on the rise as well—while Americans are warming to the idea of interracial marriages. (However, some new research questions the poll results showing more approval for interracial marriage—come back next week for a post featuring that research.)

From a litigation advocacy perspective, we are far from justice being meted out fairly and equitably. We see that still in lower awards to both black and female plaintiffs as well as in the bias that often leaps out at us during pretrial research for a wide variety of cases. Our advice has (sadly) been the same for the past twenty years—if your client is female or a minority or a foreign national and the facts of the case have nothing to do with that reality, watch intently for bias since this is when you will need to raise the flag of awareness for jurors.

If you do nothing, bias will be silent until  the verdict is read.


Comments Off on Where are racism and sexism in 2016? They haven’t gone  anywhere….

CRISPR teaching videoWe’ve written about CRISPR (aka gene editing) before and even about concerns of Americans about use of emerging technologies, and while this post is sort of about CRISPR—it is also about visual evidence done right.

We often work on cases where jurors will need to understand very complex information. It may be a patent case or a complex business litigation case or something else that is technically daunting—but jurors often need to understand something very complicated. And often that something is very technologically advanced (and thus intimidating to the jurors).

It is almost always a very difficult process for the attorneys in a complex case (in which they have often been buried for years) to see through the many details of a complicated technology and tell a simple (yet accurate) story for jurors. We often test visual evidence in our pretrial research to see what resonates with jurors, what they remember, and what helps them to make sense of abstract and esoteric technology, processes, or patented ideas.

When we see terrific examples of visual evidence (culled from many different areas) we like to share them here to help you understand there really is a way to take very, very complex facts and details and make them accessible to those who have no experience whatsoever in the area and may be very intimidated by even attempting to understand the information.

Here is just such a video tutorial. This video uses cartoon images and plain language to explain the gene editing technique referred to as CRISPR. While the last parts of the video place it clearly in the pro-CRISPR camp, the first parts explain the technology clearly and succinctly. Because it is in a cartoon format (with which we are all familiar from childhood) it is non-threatening. Since it is visually presented, we are able to understand a tremendous amount of technical information without jargon or numbers that make less technical viewers’ eyes glaze over.

If CRISPR can be explained in a few minutes of cartoons, you can explain anything in ways the most naïve juror can understand. All you need is a fabulous visual evidence consultant. We happen to know a few of them!


Comments Off on Visual Evidence: Teaching about complex ideas (CRISPR  or gene editing) with videos