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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).

scientific-consensus-gallup-data

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.”

republicans-and-democrats-on-global-warming

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: http://www.environmentmagazine.org/Archives/Back%20Issues/2016/September-October%202016/political_divide_full.html

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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. http://apnorc.org/projects/Pages/divided-america-perceptions-of-what-unites-and-divides-the-country.aspx

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icky-sickWe’ve written about American attitudes toward interracial marriage a fair amount here and (at least once) questioned poll results suggesting dramatic improvement in attitudes toward  interracial marriage among Americans (an 87% approval rating?!). While interracial relationships may be more acceptable to many more Americans, there is also the recent report of an attack on an interracial couple in Washington State. Additional reports about the self-proclaimed white supremacist who stabbed the interracial couple without provocation said if he was released by the police he would attend the Trump rally and “stomp out more of the Black Lives Matter group”.)

Recently, we found an article that reflects some of what we think about the state of race relations and attitudes toward interracial marriages. And, as if in response to the event linked to above (which had not yet happened at the time the article was published), here is how the authors close their paper (after reporting that interracial couples were dehumanized relative to same race couples):

“These findings are meaningful given the negative consequences associated with dehumanization, most notably, antisocial behaviors such as aggression and perpetration of violence”.

The researchers say that they skeptically question the increased approval poll numbers when it comes to comfort with interracial marriage. They also express a general belief that if the poll questions used subtler measures about racial attitudes (rather than asking explicitly how approving the respondent was of interracial marriage)—the results would reflect significantly lower levels of approval for interracial marriage.

They refer to, as an example of attitudes toward interracial marriage, a 2013 Washington Post column by Richard Cohen saying that the interracial family of New York mayor Bill de Blasio must result in a “gag reflex” among conservatives.

The researchers conducted three separate studies (all with undergraduate student participants). We mention the participant pool for two reasons—one, because undergraduate students are perhaps a bit different from jury-eligible citizens, and two, because the Millennial generation is seen as most accepting of interracial marriages (according to Pew Research, Fusion’s Massive Millennial Poll, and CNN) although PBS, Politico and the Washington Post question whether that really means Millennials are overall more racially tolerant. It would seem to us that, if Millennials show evidence of implicit bias against interracial marriage, older generations would likely show even more.

And sure enough, Millennials (the undergraduate participants) did show bias against interracial couples. The implicit measures showed reactions of disgust as well as a tendency to dehumanize the interracial couples compared to same race couples.

The researchers hypothesize there is still a tremendous amount of emotional and under-the-surface bias (aka implicit bias) against interracial couples and, they say, emotional bias (aka disgust) is more predictive of discriminatory behavior than are racially based stereotypes.

The researchers also describe what happens when we dehumanize others—as the participants in these experiments dehumanized the interracial couples. We do fewer nice things and increase our “antisocial behavior” toward dehumanized others. There is less empathy, and more avoidant behavior. We are less likely to help and more likely to use aggression and perpetrate violence against dehumanized targets. We are more accepting of police violence against a black suspect and more accepting of violence against black people in general. We see the dehumanized targets as less evolved and civilized. These statements represent past research findings summarized in the article by the researchers.

The researchers also say that their results indicate the individuals in the interracial couples would likely not be dehumanized if evaluated separately, but there was something about the interracial pairing that elicited both the emotional and dehumanizing responses.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this is very disturbing and certainly brings to mind our work on when to talk and when to stay quiet about racial bias in court. We are not living in a post-racial society, and basing your case strategy on such a rosy assumption is likely to be hazardous to your client. When race is absent from the relevant facts— but not from extra-evidentiary optics—think carefully about how to proceed. Remember that when the case facts are not salient to the fact your client is in an interracial relationship—that is when the bias is most likely to emerge. It’s a tricky and frustrating situation.

Skinner, A., & Hudac, C. (2017). “Yuck, you disgust me!” Affective bias against interracial couples. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 68, 68-77 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2016.05.008

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hot-hot-hotIt’s time again for a combination post of things that didn’t make the cut for a full post but that we thought interesting (or odd) enough to want to share with you. We hope you enjoy this latest collection of factoids that will make you memorable when (and if) you re-share them.

Hot, hot, hot: And it isn’t a good thing for good behavior

We’ve written about the negative impact of hot, hot, hot weather before and here’s another story supporting the idea that there is a link between summer heat, bad moods, and poor self-control. When, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Research, people report they lack energy or feel tired during the heat of the day, they were also more likely to report being stressed and angered. Lest you think this is a small scale study, the study looked at the reactions of 1.9 million Americans. The researchers think that, even if you live in a very warm climate, you are no better at adapting to it than those living in a cooler climate. (This is bad news for those in the southwest.)

However, it looks as though simply looking at pictures of cold weather can help you to improve your self-control. All you need to do is look at cold photos and imagine yourself being there—it will improve your self-control (which is good news for those in the southwest since we sure don’t want to live “there”). Perhaps hot and muggy locales need to post large billboards of icy landscapes and encourage viewers to think about what it would be like to be there rather than in the heat. Hmmm.

And as a helpful aside, the summer of 2016 has been, according to the NASA Earth Observatory, the hottest on record in 136 years! That’s hot! If you’d like to see the graphic illustrating this post in an animated gif form that covers 35 years, look here.

Will you learn more in a physics lecture if your instructor is attractive to you?

Apparently so. This is a research paper that attempted to test information from the popular website RateMyProfessor.com/ which apparently now asks students to “rate the hotness” of their instructor. (As though the tenure process was not difficult enough—now you have to suffer the indignity of how “hot” your students think you may be? Wow.) According to research published in The Journal of General Psychology, physics students who thought their instructor was attractive actually learned more as measured on quizzes following the lectures. The difference was “small but significant”. While you can read the full text of the article here, it was summarized accurately by Christian Jarrett over at BPS Research Digest.

Are pot smokers increasing or are people just responding more honestly to survey questions?

It’s hard to say but Gallup tells us that 13% reported being current marijuana users in an August 2016 survey—and that number is up from just 7% in 2013. The more often you attend church services, the less likely you are to report using marijuana. Further, one in five adults under the age of 30 report current use—and this is at least “double the rate seen among each older age group”. Gallup points out that nine different states are voting on marijuana legalization this fall and legalities could significantly shift. Perhaps Gallup should speak to the Drug Enforcement Association who recently announced marijuana would stay a Schedule 1 drug (like heroin and other drugs with “no medicinal value”).

How often do you check your smartphone? 

You will have trouble believing this one! According to a recent survey, the average American checks their smartphone between 150 times a day and in the UK, it’s even higher! . We’ve written a lot here about smartphones and our increasing use and dependence on them—as well as the distractions caused by them while walking, working, and serving on juries. Time Magazine recently published an article on smartphone addiction that is worth reading—it’s eye-opening (which is the first time many of us grab our smartphones—even before we get out of bed).

Who owns your tattoo? The answer is apparently not entirely obvious

A recent article in The Conversation, tells us that while more than 20% of Americans have at least one tattoo (and 40% of Millennials)—your own tattoo could be violating either (or both) copyright and trademark rights and tattoo-related lawsuits are not uncommon. If you have or plan to have a tattoo—you likely want to read this one!

Identifying liberals and conservatives in voir dire (a shortcut when time is tight?)

This is a ridiculous study out of the UK which concludes that the taller one is, the more likely they are conservative. We do not recommend using this in voir dire, but here are a few author quotes:

“If you take two people with nearly identical characteristics – except one is taller than the other – on average the taller person will be more politically conservative,” said Sara Watson, co-author of the study and assistant professor of political science at The Ohio State University.”

How big were these differences? “The researchers found that a one-inch increase in height increased support for the Conservative Party by 0.6 percent and the likelihood of voting for the party by 0.5 percent.”

And there were gender differences—although they were not statistically significant! “The authors discovered that the link between height and political views occurred in both men and women, but was roughly twice as strong for men.”

The article itself was published in the British Journal of Political Science but there seems to be a version of the paper here. We will not use this one as our eyesight is not good enough to tell a 0.6% difference in height when potential jurors are seated.

Noelke, C., McGovern, M., Corsi, D., Jimenez, M., Stern, A., Wing, I., & Berkman, L. (2016). Increasing ambient temperature reduces emotional well-being Environmental Research, 151, 124-129 DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2016.06.045

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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!

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