Poll: Most jurors would favor individuals over oil, gas companies

Jessica M. Karmasek May 7, 2013, 3:00pm

CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) -- In a trial between an individual and an oil or gas company, a majority of jurors would favor the individual, according to a recent survey by DRI: The Voice of the Defense Bar.

In particular, 58 percent of prospective jurors would side with the individual, the poll found.

That figure, DRI said, is identical for male and female respondents.

The poll was the first of what will become a DRI annual national opinion poll on the civil justice system.

According to the survey results, released Friday, attitudinal differences are more likely to occur at different age, education and income levels.

For instance, the poll found that 63 percent of those in the 18-to-39 age group would favor the individual, while that number drops a full 10 percentage points to 53 percent among 50- to 64-year-olds.

Gaps are even more pronounced in the education and income categories, the survey found.

Among non-college graduates, 62 percent would favor the individual while only 47 percent of college graduates would.

In income, 62 percent of respondents making less than $50,000 a year would tend to favor the individual while only 46 percent of those making more than $100,000 would.

Only 20 percent of the respondents said they would not favor either the individual or the oil or gas company.

"The results of our poll show two things," DRI Executive Director John R. Kouris said in a statement. "The fact that only 20 percent would approach their responsibilities as a juror in an objective manner means that we have a bit of public education to do on the role of a juror in the administration of justice.

"Second, while some of the demographic responses are expected, others are quite surprising."

Among them: that geography seems to make little difference in attitude, with a vast majority tending to favor the individual even in geographic regions that include sizable oil and gas operations.

And where there are differences, they are not statistically significant, the poll found.

Not unexpected was the strong ideological divide between liberals and conservatives, with a full 30 percent difference between liberals -- 73 percent -- and conservatives -- 43 percent -- who would favor individuals over oil and gas companies.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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