By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
Our views on the environment can be pretty politicized these days. Along with what we think about reproductive rights, marriage equality, support or opposition to Mideast wars, our view of how we fit into the natural world can serve as a pretty reliable sign of where we fall along the red to blue spectrum. But it isn't just a political stripe. Our individual views of the environment and the way we balance ecological values against interests in economic development and our modern lifestyle can also influence how we view a number of different litigation scenarios. When the case has to do with oil and gas development, climate change, land development, species protection, pollution of air, land or water, then how your potential juror views environmental issues will matter a great deal.
Beyond the cases that bear most directly on environmental issues, environmental attitudes might also play a more indirect role in a variety of cases. For example, when we were testing out more than 30 questions as part of Persuasion Strategies' Anti-Corporate Bias Scale, we found that one question on the environment works in predicting bias against a corporation in all kinds of cases. The question, "How much environmental harm, if any, do you believe is caused by large corporations?" works as a statistically significant predictor of bias on patent, products liability, professional liability, employment, and a lot of other cases that don't have an obvious environmental component. So these attitudes seem to matter beyond their green confines. That means that in a variety of cases, you need to ask. Thankfully, pollsters frequently track these attitudes, and the types of questions pollsters ask can give you some excellent guidance on areas to pursue in voir dire. In this post, I look at Gallup's current 2015 survey that also includes prior years' data, and highlights Gallup's data on four key areas where the public's attitudes might be a little different from what you expect.